New research reveals steep rise in contractor hiring during August

August saw a sharp spike in temporary and contractor hiring, new research has revealed.

The latest UK Report on Jobs survey by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has found a renewed and very welcome upturn in contractor hiring activity last month as businesses reopened following the Coronavirus lockdown. 

According to the research, billings for freelance or temporary work soared in August, rising at the fastest rate in almost two years. The data shows permanent places increased also, but only slightly. 

This positive news comes despite the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on Employment in the UK signalling a record 238,000 fall in the number of self-employed workers in the UK, in the three months leading up to August. 

Second Coronavirus wave could pose more challenges

The renewed hiring activity indicated by KPMG’s and the REC’s survey follows the relaxation of public health measures and the reopening of the UK economy in recent months. 

However, with local lockdowns on the increase and concerns about a second UK-wide lockdown, there are fears that an upturn in contractor hiring could be short-lived.

James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG, touched on this: “It’s positive to see an uptick in hiring activity, particularly for temporary staff, which could mark a turning point with businesses appearing more willing and able to hire as more parts of the UK economy reopen.

“But with total candidate availability rising at a near-record pace, strong and sustained rises are needed to move the UK jobs market back to levels seen pre-COVID – and with concerns around a possible second wave of infections, the winding down of the furlough scheme and a Brexit deal outcome, there are still many challenges ahead.

“This paves the way for government to not only provide short-term support but also to offer jobseekers the means to retrain and upskill, helping the recovery in jobs and reviving the UK’s productivity growth.”

Candidate availability rises at a historic rate

The research showed that candidate availability rose at a “historically sharp” rate as companies continued to announce redundancies last month. The rate of growth for the number of candidates was the second-sharpest on record in August, the sharpest being in December 2008 following the financial crash.

This dramatic increase in worker availability, combined with what remains a relatively low demand for staff overall, saw rates of pay fall. 

Even so, starting salaries for employees and fees charged by temporary workers declined at weaker rates when measured against the previous four months. 

Freelance work ‘critical’ to economic recovery

Despite the overall demand for staff remaining weak overall, short-term vacancies – which the report said stabilised last month – shows how important contractors and temporary workers are likely to be in the economic recovery.

This was a point made by the REC’s Chief Executive, Neil Carberry: “Temporary work is critical in any recovery – businesses turn to temps to help them ramp up and meet demand while the future looks uncertain. At the same time, it enables people to find work quickly. Past recessions show that temporary work bounces back more quickly – it is one of our jobs market’s biggest strengths and that’s really showing now.”

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Published on: 21 September 2020 - By: First Freelance

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