By Daniel Hunter

Professional recruitment firms now have 9% more vacancies on their books than this time last year, according to new survey data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

This is despite the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), revealing that overall employment levels dipped by 63,000 in the three months to June.

Finance & accounting sectors driving growth

The latest data from APSCo reveals that growth in the professional staffing market continues to climb across all of the trade association’s core sector groups. Permanent vacancies across finance & accounting, IT, engineering and media & marketing are all up year-on-year (15%, 7%, 1% and 2% respectively). This positive sentiment is in line with recent reports that the UK's inflation rate increased in July, with the Consumer Prices Index measure rising to 0.1% from June's 0%.

The continued rapid growth of the financial and accounting sectors is in keeping with reports from specialist recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, which found that finance job numbers were up 15% in quarter one year-on-year thanks partly to the growth of SME businesses.

Average salaries continue to climb

APSCo’s figures also reveal that median salaries across all professional sectors continue to climb steadily, increasing by 7.5% year-on-year, with engineering and finance, for example, recording uplifts of 6.1% and 7.5% respectively. This rise in remuneration for professionals far exceeds average salary rises reported by the ONS which found that earnings, including bonuses, grew at an annual rate of 2.3% in the three months to June 2015.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, said: “According to economists, official job figures raise the possibility that the labour market recovery is entering a new phase now the employment rate is close to its record high of 73.5 per cent. The fact that wages are climbing more rapidly than vacancy numbers is indicative of a shift towards the development and retention of star talent as the market becomes more competitive. As the economy continues to show signs of strength, it is likely that productivity levels will begin to recover before we see any rapid increase in vacancy levels. ”

Contract vacancies remain stable

Temporary and contract vacancies remain stable across the professional staffing market with opportunities up by 0.7% across the board year-on-year. Vacancies within finance and accounting are particularly strong, increasing by 11%.

John Nurthen, Executive Director, Global Research for Staffing Industry Analysts, which compiles the report for APSCo, said:

“The good news about jobs growth in the Finance and accounting sector comes at the same time that financial markets have become increasingly nervous about the economic news coming out of China and other emerging economies. We live in a global economy where job demand in the City of London is impacted by falling factory output in Shanghai. Whether or not this nervousness will lead to more serious economic woes for the UK remains to be seen but it does highlight the precarious nature of the job market as well as underlining the importance of contract professionals in affording employers with flexibility in times of uncertainty.”