Professional vacancies soaring in UK except Scotland as referendum uncertainty looms

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Professional recruitment firms now have 22% more vacancies on their books than this time last year according to new survey data from APSCo. Its latest research comes as the Treasury’s GDP growth forecast for the UK economy now stands at 3%, still significantly higher than the 1.8% expected at the beginning of the year, albeit marginally lower than last month (3.1%).

Jobs growth mirrors record expansion within the professional services sector

Beneath this headline figure, the latest data from APSCo reveals that growth in the professional staffing market continues to accelerate across all of the trade association’s core sector groups. Permanent vacancies across accounting & finance, and media & marketing, for example, are up year-on-year (13% and 16% respectively). This strong growth is in keeping with findings from the latest CBI Services Sector Survey which shows that growth within the professional services sector has reached a seven year high. The research also reveals that both accounting and marketing firms are offering a record number of jobs as they prepare for a new round of expansion and help fuel growth in the economy.

Elsewhere, APSCo’s data also reveals that hiring shows no signs of abating within the engineering and IT sectors. Permanent vacancies have increased by 42% across the engineering sector and by 23% within IT when compared to the same period in 2013.

Salaries mirror impressive sector growth

APSCo’s data shows that median salaries across all professional sectors have increased marginally year-on-year (0.7%). However the most impressive growth was seen in the IT, engineering and finance sectors (2%, 11% and 2% respectively). The hike in remuneration levels is indicative of employers paying attractive salaries to source the required skill sets for their businesses. This is reinforced by the CBI’s survey which reveals that professional services firms’ main worries relate to whether or not they can recruit either the number or quality of personnel they want to facilitate future growth.

The impending Scottish referendum slows job growth across the border

Interestingly APSCo’s data has revealed that online recruitment activity has slowed in Scotland which could, in part, be attributed to uncertainty surrounding the outcome of this month’s referendum. Two sectors in particular – engineering and media – are bucking the nationwide trend with decreases in job vacancies (-7% and -10% respectively) indicating that some employers are waiting for the outcome to reassess their hiring strategies.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo comments: “Our data once again points to increased confidence amongst employers which is, in turn, having a hugely positive impact on the professional staffing sector. However with the CBI Services Sector Survey revealing that the main concern for firms is their ability to find suitable candidates with the requisite skills sets, action must be taken to prevent the ongoing skills shortage being exacerbated. While employers are currently using attractive remuneration packages to entice individuals, this can surely only go on for so long before demand completely outstrips the supply of talent in some sectors.”


John Nurthen, Director of International Research for Staffing Industry Analysts, which compiles the report for APSCo, comments: “It is unfortunate that Scotland seems to be missing out on this boom in vacancies and, with oil and gas such an important part of the Scottish economy, it is particularly telling that local engineering vacancies are dropping at the moment. While it is not possible to directly attribute this to the impending Scottish referendum, given that Scottish employment is expected to grow by 1.7% this year (according to EY), the decline looks suspiciously coincidental.”

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