Employers are seeking to expand their temporary agency workforce in the short and medium terms, according to the REC’s latest Jobs Outlook.

The findings of the survey confirms that the overall outlook for jobs remains unknown but offering flexible working options such as temporary and contract could potentially be the olive branch that for job seekers grasp back into employment.

Recent data such as the REC/KPMG Report on Jobs – which tracks actual number of placements rather than future hiring intention – has shown continued growth in the demand for staff, although the rate of grown has fallen to a 12 month low. This levelling out is a cause for concern, especially at a time when the private sector will increasingly be called upon to absorb expected job losses in the public sector.

However, the JobsOutlook data provides some encouragement with 85 per cent of employers surveyed planning to maintain or increase numbers of agency staff, a ten point improvement on the previous month. At the same time, there has been little change in employers’ plans for their permanent workforces with 94 per cent intending to either grow or keep static their current numbers in the next three months – no change on last month and a further sign of employer’s being cautious of hiring new permanent staff.

Over the next 12 months, 26 per cent say they will grow their workforce and another 67 per cent intending to keep them the same – a total of 93 per cent which is a one point rise on the previous month.

Commenting on the JobsOutlook findings, Roger Tweedy, the REC’s Director of Research, said:

“This month’s results confirm that employers are remaining cautious against the backdrop on an uncertain economy and a volatile jobs market.

“However, there are some positive messages with the most obvious sign of movement being a renewed positivity towards using agency workers as a means of bringing extra resources and flexibility into their operations. This demonstrates the important role of flexible working models as a vital resourcing option for UK businesses as well as a way back into the labour market for job-seekers.”

Roger Tweedy added: “Some encouragement can also be drawn from a slight drop in the number of employers planning headcount freezes or more redundancies. However, with the Comprehensive Spending Review in just over a week’s time, next month’s survey could again present a very different picture of how employers view the state of the jobs market.”

Ahead of the Chancellor’s announcement on October 20, 30 per cent of those public sector employers surveyed for JobsOutlook said they expected quite or a very serious impact on their business as a result of the proposed cuts while 54 per cent of private sector businesses said they thought they would have little or no impact. However, more than one in three in both sectors still do not know what the impact is likely to be on them.