Contractor job opportunities up 13% since pre-covid, says APSCo

The hesitancy over the hiring plans of UK organisations is taking root around permies, not contractors, new figures indicate.

Responding to an August update from the ONS showing vacancies beginning to slow, APSCo said that the slowdown tallies with its own data for full-timers.

Specifically, the number of permanent opportunities shrank in July 2022 by almost a  quarter (23%) but in the same month, contractor opportunities grew by double digits – 13 per cent.

'Still seeing pandemic impacts'

The 13% leap in contractor roles is between this July and the pre-pandemic July (of 2019), yet contract opportunities are up on 12 months ago too (July 2021), by a solid seven per cent.

So “we are still seeing the impact of the pandemic play out,” said Anne Swain, chief executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

But contractors, not just APSCo member companies, are likely seeing covid’s effects too in their own job search.

In technology postings specifically, as of June 2022, remote vacancies accounted for up to 11% of all advertised tech jobs, versus 2% pre-pandemic.

'Three-fold rise in tech postings forecast'

The association’s June update contains a bold prediction about tech opportunities overall for the rest of the year.

“We are forecasting that 2022 will see three times more postings [in technology] than we saw in 2020,” APSCo said.

But if its latest data provided by software firm Bullhorn is anything to go by, APSCo’s forecasted tech postings will be heavily weighted towards contractors.

Temporary opportunities (as a whole not just IT ) expanded by two per cent between June 2022 and July 2022, versus a one per cent narrowing for permies over the same period.

'Unsustainable'

Coupled with the larger, two-yearly increase in contractor roles (13%) and the decrease for full-timers (23%), the association’s Tania Bowers is concerned.

“This reliance on the non-employed segment of the workforce simply isn’t sustainable at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination to work for international contractors is dwindling post-Brexit.”

Speaking before prime ministerial favourite Liz Truss pledged to review IR35, Ms Bowers, APSCo’s policy director added: “And with the impact of off-payroll [reform] still being felt in the temporary recruitment market, the longer-term availability of these resources and ability to tap into skills in a cost-effective manner is at risk.”

However, obtained by ContractorUK, APSCo’s June update indicates that not all of the foreseen technology job postings for the rest of 2022 will actually lead to people getting jobs.

In a revelation likely to annoy candidates, the association said: “Anecdotally, we are hearing that…businesses are conscious that hiring for certain positions can be challenging. Consequently, they advertise hiring for multiple different roles, yet only [intend to complete on] hiring for one of the positions.”

'No choice but contractors'

“Companies are faced with no other choice but to turn to contractors to keep business-as-usual operations running, but for many, that’s not a sustainable approach” said Ms Swain.

“With average permanent salaries…dropping despite the cost of living crisis, our economic stability is at stake. While we await the decision around a new prime minister for the country, my hope is that the successful individual prioritises a solution to the UK’s skills crisis.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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