Professional recruitment firms now have eight percent more vacancies on their books than this time last year according to new survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

This is in line with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which reveals that overall employment levels increased by 42,000 in the three months to July.

Finance & accounting sectors driving growth

The latest data from APSCo reveals that growth in the professional staffing market continues to climb across many of the trade association’s core sector groups. Permanent vacancies across finance & accounting, IT and media & marketing are all up year-on-year (16%, 5%, and 1% respectively).

This positive sentiment is in line with recent reports that business investment in the UK rose 2.9 percent in the second quarter compared with the first three months of 2015 – the highest figure in a year.

The continued rapid growth of the financial and accounting sectors is in keeping with reports from specialist recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, which found that 76% of hiring managers have said they are planning to hire new staff in the second half of 2015. The figure represents an increase of nine percent compared to the first half of the year.

Average salaries continue to climb

APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all professional sectors continue to climb steadily, increasing by 5.7 percent year-on-year. This figure is characterised by notable fluctuations in terms of sector, with sales and financial services, for example, recording uplifts of 16.9 percent and 8.5 percent respectively. This rise in remuneration within the professional arena exceeds the national increase in salaries as reported by the ONS which found that average earnings grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the three months to July 2015.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo comments:

“With the latest estimates from the ONS predicting that the UK economy has grown 13.4 percent since 2009, there is now no denying that the outlook is good for UK plc. Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that employment is climbing and vacancy levels across the professional sectors remain strong.”

“The fact that salaries are on the up, coupled with zero inflation, means that real wage growth — a measure of living standards — is at its highest level for 12 years. The Government’s confidence in this strength in employment is reflected in the upcoming rise in national minimum wage, which will equate to 60 percent of the median salary.”

Contract vacancies remain stable

Temporary and contract vacancies remain stable across the professional staffing market with opportunities up by 0.3 percent year-on-year. Vacancies within finance and accounting were particularly strong, increasing by seven percent.

Swain continues;

“According to recent analysis from PwC’s senior economic adviser Andrew Sentence, the economy is losing billions of pounds a year because firms cannot access the skills they need, estimating that the cost of unfilled vacancies will amount to a whopping £10bn of lost GDP this year. With this in mind, it is no surprise that businesses continue to draft in contractors with high-level or specialist skill sets that would be difficult to secure on a permanent basis, despite the vitality of the permanent employment market.”

John Nurthen, Executive Director, Global Research for Staffing Industry Analysts, which compiles the report for APSCo, concluded:

“The steady increase in demand seen by professional recruitment firms is consistent with the increase in vacancies seen across the whole UK economy which, coupled with better wage growth, points to a positive conclusion to the year as we enter the final quarter of 2015. However, our data shows that the overall rate of growth in vacancies recorded by professional recruitment firms has not really accelerated throughout the year so I would think that businesses will be mostly budgeting for a moderately stable 2016.”