Uncertainty over Britain’s future relationship with the EU has failed to hamper growth in the jobs market, according to new figures published by the main representative body for the recruitment industry.

The number of permanent and temporary jobs advertised by recruitment agencies increased in 2018, despite ongoing negotiations over Brexit and disruption to companies caused by the introduction of new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and enhanced administrative burden associated with the public sector IR35 reforms.

In the face of these setbacks, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) says most employers remain confident of growth and optimistic about continuing demand for external recruitment services.

Its latest publication, Recruitment Industry Trends 2017-18, it reported a 14% rise in permanent placements to 1,142,000, while the headcount of temporary and contract workers on payrolls increased by 28% to 1,646,000.

More than three quarters (76%) of permanent staff were placed in six key sectors of secretarial/clerical, computing/IT,  accounting/finance, technical/engineering, construction and professional/managerial.

Almost two-thirds of temporary assignments were for 12 weeks or more – up 3% to 63% on the previous year – while one in five were for six months or more, up by 2%. Some 85% of contract placements were for 12 weeks or more – up from 80% in 2016-17 – while 45% were for up to 12 months.

While employers remain optimistic, the report sounded a note of caution. It said: “Despite predicted growth, while details of the final Brexit settlement agreement between the UK and EU remain unclear, the economic climate that the UK recruitment industry will have to weather for the next three years will also remain uncertain.

“As such, it is important to note that our forecasts are based on the assumption that the UK’s departure from the EU will seek to minimise disruption to trade and access to skills.”

The number of recruitment companies in the UK grew by 10% to 30,430, with a collective turnover of £35.7billion – an increase of 11% on 2016-17 which, the report said, had been “an extraordinary year” for the industry.

Had it not been for unpredictable demand and volatile decision-making, caused by ongoing Brexit negotiations, and non-UK nationals reconsidering their future in the UK causing fluctuations in availability of labour, the picture could have been even rosier, according to the REC.

Neil Carberry, its chief executive, said there had also been some challenges from within the industry, including changing use of technology, recruitment process outsourcing and managed service programmes.

“Getting it right means we can shout loudly about a sector that is growing by increasing the value it provides to clients and the opportunities it provides to candidates,” he said.

“And we should all celebrate that success – a vital part of the UK’s professional services sector, placing over a million people a year in a new permanent job, and the same number fulfilling a temporary post every day.”

For a full copy of the report click HERE