EU referendum: British businesses press "pause button" on hiring professional talent amid Brexit concerns

Shruti Tripathi Chopra
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Swain argued that uncertainty about Europe and the Treasury's Brexit analysis has dampened hiring confidence. (Source: Getty)

Demand for professional talent has slowed with recruitment firms now having just one per cent more vacancies on their books than this time last year.

According to research by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), permanent vacancies across financial services and marketing have increased 10 per cent and 12 per cent respectively while IT and engineering vacancies have fallen by five per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

The news comes as the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that overall vacancy numbers are down by 0.1 per cent in the three months to February. UK unemployment also rose by 21,000 to 1.7m during the same period.

Ann Swain, chief executive at APSCo, said: "While demand for professional contractors has increased year-on-year, the rate of growth is far less than we have become accustomed to in recent months, creating a perception of market slowdown."

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Swain argued that uncertainty about Europe and the Treasury's Brexit analysis has dampened hiring confidence.

She said: "Commentary and conjecture surrounding Europe, not least the Treasury’s 200-page Brexit analysis, has of course had a negative effect on hiring confidence. But regardless of market uncertainty, professional talent is a valuable commodity which is crucial to the success of any organisation. With this in mind, remuneration levels for skilled workers have remained strong despite the fact that hiring is temporarily cooling."

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APSCo's report found that temporary and contract vacancies remain largely unchanged across the professional staffing market with opportunities up by just one per cent across the board year-on-year. However, vacancies across financial services rose by 30 per cent.

Swain said that despite British business having pressed the “pause button” until the outcome of the EU referendum in June, demand for talent in the financial sector remains “insatiable”.

The APSCo boss added that predictions that up to 100,000 financial services jobs could be lost if Britain votes to leave the European Union will deter decision makers from creating full-time positions in the short-term.

This will lead to contractors being hired to "plug vital skills gaps" in the financial services sector, Swain said.