Musings on the Markit report – #ITjobs are now leading the way in the UK
Posted on 13th October 2020
Of course, these broad-brush figures hide the differing sectoral positions in Scotland. For IT jobs - the area that interests us at Be-IT – our industry is now leading the way in the Scottish perm market (as shown on the left). Again, this reflects what we’re seeing at Be-IT, with slow but steady demand from employers pushing our consultants to find quality candidates. As the country settles down to thole the latest measures that will lockdown both people and economic activity, the REC/RBS Markit reports are, of necessity, playing catch-up.
Be-IT and the hundreds of other rec-cons that supply the confidential data that make up the national and sectoral pictures every month know that in normal times (remember them?) there are obvious trends and relatively slow moving influences on the number of jobs available and candidates seeking pastures new.
Now, even though we were told that a second wave of coronavirus would be coming, the situation changes so rapidly on the ground that the RBS/Markit data are constantly playing catch-up and it’s difficult to extrapolate into the future. However, in my view, there are several things that will govern how IT businesses recruit over the remainder of this year.
Firstly, given that government strategy (at present) is to hope for a vaccine while battening down the hatches to reduce the danger of an exponentially increasing death rate, I can’t see how we are going to do anything other repeat the pattern of lockdown leading to a reduction in infections/deaths, followed by relaxation, followed by rising infections/deaths (especially as the winter proper kicks in up to February, which, I have read, is the month the government is really worried about). I remain an optimist about a vaccine, but if it is not available until next summer then we are likely to have several more swings of the lockdown pendulum, with all that implies for jobs.
Secondly, although my initial view was that IT would lead the charge out of the depression forced upon the economy, it has been the case that the IT jobs market moved more slowly than I expected. From the numerous conversations our consultants have been having with clients and candidates, it’s clear that, a) a lot of non-vital contract projects were ditched, which might lead one to expect a glut of candidates coming onto the market, but, b) employers are well aware that there has been a persistent shortage of IT talent for many years so they are hanging on to their people as far as possible – a case of ‘what we have we hold.’
However, what the Aug/September RBS/Markit data show is that, for the UK as a whole, IT is now leading the pack in the perm market, as shown in the graphic here. Across the entire country, both perm and temp billings are up in general, with the perm figures the strongest for nearly two years. Unsurprisingly, hotel & catering and retail are at the opposite end of the scale, and likely to get worse sadly, as further lockdowns bite on those sectors.
When we look at the situation north of the border, in contrast with the UK picture, it’s not quite so good, with the principal headline on the Markit report noting that the rate of decline is modest albeit the softest it’s been for months. In the temp/contractor market however, the rate of growth has improved and actually moved above the magic 50 mark (that indicates growth) for the first time since September 2019. This was much the same as across the UK as a whole.
Of course, these broad-brush figures hide the differing sectoral positions in Scotland. For IT jobs - the area that interests us at Be-IT – our industry is now leading the way in the Scottish perm market (as shown below on the left). Again, this reflects what we’re seeing at Be-IT, with slow but steady demand from employers pushing our consultants to find quality candidates.
That, as I inferred above, is not as easy as some may suppose. The fact is that quality candidates are, despite the halt in many contactor-led projects, still thin on the ground. This reflects the reality (as we have written about many times on the Be-IT news page) that there are simply not enough people coming through our education system with the necessary tech skills. What happens as furlough winds down/becomes less generous, remains to be seen, but my educated guess is that any improvement in candidate available for IT jobs will be slight rather than substantial.
In fact, when we look at the temp/contractor market figures from RBS/Markit figures, it’s clear that the IT jobs market in Scotland has not yet returned to growth. This is due to the cutback in non-essential projects and the ‘what we have we hold’ mentality noted above, where employers are determined not to lose quality employees unless it’s absolutely necessary – again a reflection of the aforementioned skills shortages in IT in general and some specific skills areas in particular (DevOps, Cyber, etc.).
We really do have to wait and see what will happen as furlough schemes are wound down. Later this week, we hope to be able to report on our research into the candidate market, which, amongst other things, sought to find out the prevailing sentiment about furlough and the threat of redundancy. At time of writing, we don’t know what the results of this study will be, but I suspect they will make very interesting reading…
Gareth Biggerstaff, CEO, Be-IT
Posted in Opinion, Recruitment News
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