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JobStats - July 2002 - Paint it black: 09 Jul 2002

09 Jul 2002

Market trends

Things are still getting worse. The number of advertised jobs is going down, rates are static or going down. The market is at half the level it was three years ago. Not only is there's no sign of any improvement but every month since Christmas has been down on the last. There was a brief levelling off in March but that was a false dawn which led me (mad optimist that I am) to suggest that things might have reached the bottom.

Within this picture there are some (relatively) bright spots.

  • Contracting vacancies while still falling are falling at a much slower rate than the overall market as contract vacancies return to their old market share of about one quarter of the adverts. Remember that this doesn't mean that a quarter of all jobs are for contractors just that a quarter of adverts are for contractors. The economics might make a contractor worth more to an agency and so they will be more willing to advertise a contract vacancy than a permanent vacancy.
  • Demand for finance knowledge, having trebled up to April 2001 has fallen but only back to the level of three years ago and rates are still up or only marginally down on their level three years ago.
  • Similarly management skills trebled in demand and have since fallen back to their level of three years ago.

What's done so badly then to counteract these skills which have kept their level. Basically its the dot-com bubble skills that have fallen sharply. Skills like e-commerce are at a third of their level three years ago and they have dragged the market down with them.

Symptoms of the dark days

Lets start by looking at what happens when the job market is booming. What you've got is too many employers chasing too few skilled staff, when demand goes up and the supply (in the short term) is fixed the price rises. No surprises here. But the smart employers don't want to pay more so they look for ways to reward staff that don't cost them anything. Like dress-down Fridays and then dress-down summers and finally dress-down all week. One firm of accountants went so far as to insist on staff dressing down, thereby missing the point completely. Some of the sillier firms even had pinball machines and games consoles in the office; did any of these companies make any money at all. One bank had a chill-out room where people could go when they got too stressed out. My guess is that the room is now empty, the last occupant found basking in there having been harpooned by the HR department and dragged off to be rendered down to lamp oil.

What happens when times get tough is that power switches from employees to employers. So pay rates fall or at least don't go up much and all the 'free' perks get taken away. That's why you don't see many adverts telling you about the quality of the games room any more and that's why more people are wearing suits again.

What can you do about it

This time around nothing but next time you see rates rising by 50 percent in a year and companies offering pool tables in the office you should get the highest rate you can with the biggest, most stable company you can and save as much as you can 'cause it aint gonna last.


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