IT sector to make the fewest redundancies

Workers with IT skills stand a greater chance of keeping their jobs over the next three months than any other professional in the UK's major sectors.

Taken with a batch of fresh employment data, the verdict from a recruiter in 15 regions signals that both the UK and the IT jobs markets are at a turning point.

While manufacturing bucked the trend, agents at Antal said job prospects for professionals and managers in other key sectors improved for the first time since last autumn.

Tempering the optimism, it said the recession for such staff is "by no means over," as the total number due to be shed is slightly higher than three months ago.

But workers with IT skills, or in the IT sector, will experience fewer eliminations than their counterparts in the telecoms, manufacturing, energy and financial sectors.

In fact, only 16 per cent of outfits on Antal's books expect to shed their IT workers, while at least double that number plan to eliminate staff in financial or utilities roles.

However, the news that IT workers are now last on the list to be made redundant comes too late for freelance IT staff at Fujitsu, which has laid off 400 IT contractors.

The reductions, which a company spokesman said began in April of last year, coincided with a 'take it or leave' cut to IT contractors' daily pay rates of 15 per cent.

Anecdotally, the bulk of these ultimatums for IT staff are already in force, rather than incoming, as pressure on pay has eased after several consecutive months of downgrades.

Publishing their Report on Jobs yesterday, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said contract pay across all sectors in August fell, but at its slowest rate in ten months.

As an explanation, the REC, whose member companies include IT recruiters, said that for the first time in over a year, demand for such temporary workers increased, albeit only marginally.

Speaking last week, Matt Smith, regional director of Harvey Nash, told CUK: "Rates for contract IT workers looking more attractive is absolutely in line with what we're seeing."

"Although clients using contractors can leverage from an economic downturn because contractors will take work solely to be in work, we are not finding it all that easy to find IT staff."

He acknowledged that while the availability of IT job candidates was historically high, "there's not a huge pool of IT workers out there to snap up all competing for the same work."

According to the REC, the overall availability of contract staff across the major sectors rose in August for the seventeenth month in a row, though the increase was the slowest for a year.

Elsewhere, the report found the shortage of contract CNC programmers remains, yet there were no shortages of IT skills among permanent candidates, who, overall, also saw their billings increase for the first time since March 2008.

"This is the first time we have seen really positive news for the UK jobs market in 17 months," said Bernard Brown, head of business services at KMPG, the report's co-author.

"However, it is too early to speculate whether this signals the end of the recession. One important factor to watch over the coming months will be how the public sector is coping with the financial and economic crisis.

"Given that employment costs are a substantial element of public sector spending, you would expect significant pressure on those costs going forward. This is likely to have a significant impact on the UK jobs market."

Separate analysis of the UK labour market, by recruiters at Manpower, indicates some of that impact may be softened by modest headcount gains at financial and business services employers.

The recruitment outlook for both types of employer has improved considerably since three months ago, with hiring by business services outfits, which includes IT firms, due to show a 4 per cent growth rate in the fourth quarter this year.

Meanwhile, agents at the IT Job Board reflected on their latest findings , predicting: "The IT sector should still have a relatively strong year compared to many other industry sectors, as organisations understand the value of IT projects to maintain competitive advantage in their respective marketplace."

They added: "Despite the economic downturn, The UK as a market for IT recruitment is still showing several positive signs for longer term growth".

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