* Finance, accounting, and IT roles start to recover from slump; legal salaries also deliver good news
* More bad news for bankers – online recruitment down throughout UK
* Graduate salaries plummet over 20%

Recruitment has returned to growth following an early spring slump and a December 2011 nadir, according to the latest jobs data from APSCo.

According to the latest data, permanent placements rose sharply by 17% month on month and vacancies rose 19% (m/m). Job placements and vacancies are respectively 34% and 35% up on December 2011’s lows.

However, APSCo adds that vacancies are still well down on where they were this time last year, and the recovery in vacancies and placements has been inconsistent. Because of seasonal factors, month on month figures can exaggerate trends.

Ann Swain, Chief Executive for APSCo says: “The UK’s professional recruitment market is a crucial barometer for the performance of the UK’s broader economy, so good news here is good news for the wider economy.”

“The latest data are an improvement on the bad news from early spring, but it’s not clear that this is the beginning of a long-term positive trend. Nothing is certain. The growth from the low-point in December hasn’t been as consistent or widespread as we would have hoped. It’s a very unsettled picture out there.”

“With continuing uncertainty over the Eurozone crisis, employers are being very cagey.”

The research is from the APSCo Monthly Trends Report, which analyses job vacancies and placements across the UK professional staffing sector. The report compares data from thousands of vacancies and placements supplied by APSCo members who place professional candidates within the UK.

Accountancy and finance, and IT drive improvement

Growth in permanent recruitment in the latest figures was driven by the finance and accounting, and IT sectors. Finance and accounting saw a 27% month-on-month rise in vacancies, while IT sector placements and vacancies grew 18% and 26% respectively month-on-month.

Says Ann Swain: “Growth in the permanent jobs market has been driven by recoveries in the two sectors hardest hit in the slump to December: IT and finance and accounting. It could be that businesses in these sectors put their hiring decisions on ice but subsequently found that they needed new staff to handle demand for their services.”

Bad times for bankers, good times for lawyers

APSCo data on online recruitment trends suggests that a bad spring for the banking industry extends more widely than recent newspaper headlines: the banking and insurance sector was consistently one of the worst performing sectors in nearly every region and for almost every job type in the UK.

Meanwhile, online recruitment activity for the legal sector impressed, especially in Scotland, where recruitment activity more than doubled, according to data compiled by Innovantage.

In further good news for lawyers in APSCo’s new salary data, average legal salaries are up 14.9% year-on-year, the highest climb of any jobs category over the previous 12 months.

Graduates feeling the squeeze

APSCo says that graduate starting salaries are being squeezed as employers benefit from the high number of graduates chasing every role. Data compiled by Broadbean shows that average graduate salaries have plummeted 20.5% from this time last year to £24,070.

Ann Swain adds: “Graduates have been hit hard by reduced graduate recruitment by the professions, which continues to squeeze starting salaries for those graduates lucky enough to break their way into the professions.”

“With professional recruitment showing signs of improvement, it could be that graduate intakes also start to recover during this summer’s graduate recruitment season.”

Pay awards down

According to APSCo, average IT, financial services, marketing, sales, and engineering salaries have continued to dip slightly since the beginning of the year.

John Nurthen of Staffing Industry Analysis says: “Overall, we’re seeing a bit of a lag with salaries from the dip in recruitment at the beginning of the year. If recruitment continues to pick up, then a salary bounceback shouldn’t be too far behind.”

“Looking regionally, the North-West has been the star performer, especially when it comes to online recruitment: it’s the only region recording year-on-year growth across every sector and job type. Scotland isn’t too far behind.”

“London, on the other hand, has been the worst performing region for online recruitment with slumps in HR and the banking industry. It’s not been a good time to be a banker recently, and fears about new regulation, whether from Europe or the UK, in the wake of the recent scandals could put a dampener on banking recruitment for the foreseeable future.”