Demand for contractors has reached its highest point this year according to monthly figures from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

In May 2017, the number of staff appointments in UK grew at its fastest pace for just over two years. Temporary billings, such as those given to contractors, also grew at a steep pace and recorded the strongest rate of growth since March 2015.

The statistics reveal that the number of candidates for permanent roles dropped at the quickest pace since August 2015. This lack of permanent candidates has fed into the hands of contractors historically, as companies look to fill roles with contractors as a quick fix.

There was also pleasing news on a financial front, as hourly rates of pay for temporary and contract staff also rose sharply.

When it comes to areas of the UK that have saw contractor growth in May 2017, the Midlands proved a hotbed with the fastest increase in temp billings. This was closely followed by the North, while the slowest rate of expansion was reported in the South of England.

The increase in demand for temporary and contractor staff in the public sector was the strongest seen since July 2015, while Nursing/Medical/Care employees were the most in-demand type of short-term staff. Given the recent reforms in the public sector around IR35 and the exodus that has followed, these statistics will surprise few.

“Skill shortages are causing headaches in many sectors,” said Tom Hadley, director of policy at REC. “The NHS for example is becoming increasingly reliant on short-term cover to fill gaps in hospital rotas because there aren’t enough nurses to take permanent roles. Meanwhile, the shortage of people with cyber security skills is a particular concern in many businesses in the wake of the recent high-profile WannaCry attacks.”

Hadley added “These figures clearly show that in many sectors we need more, not fewer people so that businesses can grow and public services continue to deliver.”