This could leave contractors in a position to take advantage of possible higher rates and longer contracts as employers and clients struggle to find the right skill set to match their vacancies.
The monthly survey by agency group, Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG shows that temp billings increased at a sharp rate, with growth close to the 15-year high seen in August.
It also signaled that the growth of job vacancies was at a similar pace to that recorded in August, which was the fastest for over six years. But that September saw a further reduction in the availability of candidates with solid rates of decline in permanent and temporary staff availability.
This reflects concerns by recruitment agency, Hays, who recently called for a rethink of immigration criteria to meet what it perceived as a growing skill shortage. (See: Call to rethink immigration to meet IT skills shortage - Shout99, Oct 2013)
In the public sector, demand for temporary staff improved at the sharpest rate in the series history, but permanent workers saw a slight fall in demand for their services.
Demand rose for all nine categories of permanent staff monitored by the survey in September. The strongest rate of growth was signaled for construction workers, closely followed by engineering staff.
REC CEO Kevin Green said: "This month’s figures show the jobs market continues to be the success story in the UK economy with all regions and sectors experiencing growth. Recruiters tell us that the number of people being placed into permanent roles has now been growing continually for a year and temp growth maintains its strength following last month’s 15 year high.
“This is good news but behind this success story we can see that the division in the jobs market is getting worse with vacancies going up as the number of skilled workers to fill them goes down. There is a real two speed labour market in place. We have a buoyant, candidate driven market for skilled and professional roles, versus an oversupply of candidates for jobs that don’t rely on a specific skill set.”
The gap between positions and candidates available was also noted by The Pulse Umbrella Group, who saw this as a cloud with a potential silver lining for contractors who were prepared to move where the demand is. Plus, an added advantage of higher rates and longer contracts when skills are in short supply.
Chris Futcher, CEO of The Pulse Umbrella Group, said: “This month’s Report on Jobs showed more good news for Britain’s temporary workforce and the temp recruitment industry. Following August’s incredible growth which saw a 15 year high, September has followed suit and isn't that far behind. This is great news and is certainly being confirmed by our recruitment agency partners here at Pulse. There is further good news as rates also continue to rise. Following July's five and a half year high, this month’s figures came out only slightly lower.
“The only fly in the ointment may be a developing disparity between the number of available candidates, and the number of roles on the market. Role availability is growing much faster than candidate availability. Bad news for the economy as a whole but good news for contractors who are willing to get out there and look for something new. A perceived shortage of candidates almost always increases rates, and contract lengths.”
A sign that the country might be turning a corner is the increase in demand for construction workers, a sector which has been particularly affected during the recession. Although the current demand is for permanent employees, this will have a cascade effect of requiring contractors and temporary labour on these building projects.
Kevin Green said: “Construction has rocketed to the top of the sector list of permanent in demand skills. Government schemes for house building and infrastructure projects are hotting up and making a positive impact on a sector that has really struggled in the recession. The issue we face now is finding the skilled candidates needed to fullfil these projects and keep momentum in the industry going.”
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2013