IT contractor upturn absorbs London cuts

The engine that drove the IT contractor jobs market towards recovery in the first six months of this year has stalled, exclusive billings data handed to CUK reveal.

London and the South East, rich in financial and government clients, slammed the brakes on freelance IT hiring in July, resulting in 30% fewer IT contracts than in June.

The decrease, noted by City-based screening firm Powerchex, means that, overall, the pile of new IT contracts, mainly for financial services, is 10% smaller than a year ago.

Founder Alexandra Kelly says the "considerable volatility in month-on-month recruitment" by financers suggests that the sector's jobs market is still far from settled.

"We can confirm that we have also witnessed segments of the IT contractor market contract within July 2010," said Jenrick, an IT recruiter with a strong London focus.

Rather than blaming the decline on financial services, the firm pointed its finger at cutbacks in the public sector, which it said have already hit security-cleared IT roles.

Its founder Philip Fanthom said such sensitive posts were merely one example of how bold policies from the new government were "directly reflecting" on IT job creation.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation hinted as much earlier this month, having heard from its recruitment members that state job cuts finally surfaced in July.

But another agency staffing body - APSCo - yesterday said that the full impact of public cutbacks, including two months of contract de-scoping, was yet to be totted up.

Moreover, while London's other main end-user of temporary staff - financial services - did reduce its intake in July, overall conditions for IT contractors actually improved.

"Our monthly index for the IT contract market tells a different story for July", said Marilyn Davidson, APSCo director, referring to the downward trend noted in London.

"[It shows] a year-on-year increase of 11% for IT contractor placements, and a 5% year-on-year increase for IT contract vacancies".

Set against data of Association of Professional Staffing Companies members for the six months before, she said the trend for IT contractors in July "continued upwards."

Of its data, showing the slump, Jenrick hoped: "With all such fluctuations... [time and time again], there is an equally strong bounce-back in the months that follow."

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