High inflation appears to have boosted the less quickly growing IT contractor jobs market, as the slowdown in growth in temporary technology billings paused in May.
In Report on Jobs, the REC suggests that rising costs made employers scrutinising the bottom line turn to temps rather than add members of staff to the payroll on a full-time basis.
REC chief executive Neil Carberry gave this assessment in the report on Friday, potentially part explains how demand for IT contractors shot up in May to 66.1 from 63.7 in April.
Mr Carberry said: “The market for temporary work is stabilising faster than for permanent staff, which could suggest a little caution creeping into employers’ thinking in the face of high inflation.”
Kate Shoesmith, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s deputy CEO returned last week from a hiring expo in Brussels, only to similarly acknowledge inflation’s tight grip.
“We have been through tough times [chiefly due the coronavirus pandemic], followed by record-breaking successes. But the economic headwinds are [still] there,” she said.
‘Rethinking growth plans’
As to inflation’s effects, Claire Warnes of KPMG spoke of employers “starting to rethink their growth plan” as — like candidates — they face ‘the greatest costs in recent years.’
“And these are expected to increase, at least in the short term,” said Ms Warnes, KPMG’s head of education, skills and productivity.
As well as “rising business costs” for both candidates and end-users alike, she sounded more sympathetic to the latter, by pointing out organisations also face “supply chain disruption.”
‘IT Operations and Helpdesk keeping pace with inflation’
But only last week, Indeed said that as “the economy starts to weaken,” the phenomenon of “soaring inflation” was eroding the pay gains of “most” workers.
The jobsite found exceptions though – seven occupations in total, including IT Operations and Helpdesk where pay has climbed by a healthy 7.1% in the 12 months to April 2022.
“A handful of occupational categories are seeing wage growth keep pace with inflation, largely the ones facing the most acute hiring challenges”, said Indeed’s Jack Kennedy.
The jobsite’s economist, he added: “Employers in these sectors are having to raise pay to deal with the combination of high vacancies and falling relative jobseeker interest.”
‘Hot market for the sector-qualified’
Compounding the situation, candidate availability is falling too, the REC found in May, and one consequence is “it remains a hot market for those well-qualified in their sectors.”
But another consequence of lower candidate availability is frustrated recruiters.
“Jobs that are paying well for super companies = no applicants. No amount of hunting is getting responses. Very, very few if any candidates,” posted recruiter Roseanne Stockton.
Boss at Nu-Recruit, she added: “Candidates….are excellent. But in the main, up to that point [of meeting them], I cannot find many. [There are just] two candidates per job [opening] at the moment!”
‘None of their clients would touch a career-breaker’
However some recruiters aren’t helping themselves by excluding professionals who have CV gaps due to taking a career break.
The disregard of individuals with lives beyond just work disappoints agents like Kieran Boyle, owner of CKB Recruitment, who took to LinkedIn.
“Spoke to a candidate this morning [with] bags of experience, [but] taken nine years out to have children.
“The [candidate] was told by a rather well-known insurance recruiter that they didn’t want to work with her, and none of their clients would touch someone whose had a career break”.
“What a load of poppycock,” Mr Boyle continued online, reflecting on his own post. “The industry faces an unprecedented skills shortage, so why would you not try and help someone back into this amazing industry, and help one of your clients fill a role at the same time?”
‘Flexibility trumps pay’
The shortage in the IT sector in May was severe for Developers, Software Engineers, and IT and Technology generalists, as these four were scarce on a permanent and contract basis.
No other IT contractor skills were “in short supply” in May according to REC’s member agencies, which struggled to find full-time applicants for Analysis, CAD, Data, Digital, Software and Technical Sales positions.
But the confederation repeated its advice to employers that cash is no longer king.
“Flexibility [now] trumps pay, “ said the REC’s Ms Shoesmith. “[And that’s] closely followed by [company] culture in [terms of] candidate job search [preferences] right now.”