Up, up and away: contracting jobs go through the roof

When you set yourself up as a specialist contractor accountant, it pays to keep tabs on the market. Of course there are all the changes in tax law to consider. But we’re talking here of another beast: the jobs market for contractors.

It’s not as cut and dried as you’d expect. On the one hand, we see the government taking huge steps towards cleansing umbrella and intermediary practises.

How far they’ll go with offshore trusts remains to be seen. Many politicians owe their own fortunes to such mechanisms, so they’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot.

On the other, we keep a track on the UK self-employed and agency jobs market. And it’s this area that helps define demand for our services.

It’s not always good news. There are times when the outlook is downright bleak. When Scotland went to the polls for their independence referendum, for instance, the outcome was uncertain for a long time.

Even more unclear was the how a devolved Scotland would treat English contractors heading up north to earn their crust in the lucrative oil and gas industry.

But there are good times, too, when we see the wind change and start blowing in our direction. After reading this week’s headlines, I can feel the breeze chafing my cheeks already. Let’s explain.

What happens in the managed service or umbrella market is beyond our catch net, if you like. Those practises deal with accounts in-house and use many different mechanisms to save tax for contractors.

But how they’re performing – and what’s guiding their hands – that can be a barometer for our sector.

And talking of ‘our sector’, these two polls from official bodies representing staffing agencies this week are of particular interest:

Demand for interim managers increases | IMA

First off, IMA‘s new Ipsos MORI poll has only good news from the interim management sector.

Demand for temporary specialist staff is increasing. The private sector is also rediscovering its confidence in and appetite for hiring on an ad hoc basis.

Here’s a snapshot of those highlights (based on Q4 2014 figures):

  • average number of enquiries: up 23% (year on year);
  • new assignments: up 5% (year on year);
  • billable days: up 12% (Q3-to-Q4 2014);
  • finance industry accounts for almost 4-in-10 private sector assignments (39%);
  • private sector (in total) accountable for two thirds of all completed assignments compared to just 51% in Q3, 2014.

The full article has a more in-depth overview.

Professional hiring up 16% | APSCo

Then, APSCo report on the increment of both permanent and contract vacancies on its members’ books. Citing ONS employment figures, up by more than 200k in the rolling quarter to March, as an indicative value, APSCo confirms the IMA data.

June 2015 Week 1 - Tag Cloud, what's making the temp staffing news

It’s all good news!

Agencies supplying professional staff have 16% more permanent vacancies across the board than they did a year ago. Contracting vacancies have risen by 3% over the same period. Even better news is that salary has also increased, up by 2.9% year-on-year.

Once again, the finance and accounting sector is quoted as being “particularly strong”. Permanent vacancies here are up 11% alone. For temporary jobs, media and marketing were the outstanding performers. They’re up 9% compared to last year’s figures.

Temporary workforce to contribute £2bn to GDP in 2015(?)

Ann Swain, APSCo CEO, adds her insight to the rise in staffing vacancy figures article on their website.

Her predictions for the ‘professional flexible workforce’ are bold and interesting. She believes that the sector will contribute more than £2bn to GDP for the first time this year.

If we’re feeling the breeze here, the winds of change are blowing a gale across the contracting community. It looks like us, as their accountants, are going to be busy.

If you want to be a part of this force majeure, it’s time to get serious about working for yourself. The change in the way we work is approaching a new dawn; this is one sunrise you don’t want to miss!

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