Employers turn to interim hires to ride out uncertainty, recruiter says

  (Reuters) - Employers worldwide are more cautious about hiring permanent employees and are turning to temporary workers while they ride out economic uncertainties in the coming months, recruiting firm Robert Walters said, after a slower start to the year.

Recruitment in the technology industry has been hit by global lay-offs by big U.S. tech companies such as Amazon, Google, and Meta, leading to Robert Walters reporting a fall in net fees in markets such as the U.S. and UK.

Shares in the London-listed recruiter, which specializes in the legal, accountancy, and tech sectors, fell more than 7%.

CEO designate Toby Fowlston said the technology sector was facing a "correction" after a spate of "over-hiring" last year.

"Obviously, in that sector, in particular, that has caused some slowdown," Fowlston told Reuters.

But employers from other sectors are scooping up those tech professionals who are entering a workforce that over the years has shrunk as people study longer, retire earlier, and migrate less, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, Fowlston said.

Fowlston, who will replace Robert Walters' eponymous founder who is retiring later this month, expects that trend to continue.

The recent banking turmoil and worries about inflation and interest rates have stoked concern about a global economic slowdown and pushed companies to rethink their hiring plans.

"When you go back to ... the bigger story around caution, commitment to hiring, that's where temporary, interim hires become very attractive, both to clients and to candidates," Fowlston said.

Robert Walters' finance chief Alan Bannatyne said increased regulation of financial services has led to higher demand for roles such as risk officers and chief compliance officers.

Vacancy levels and salary inflation remained relatively robust, the company said.

Robert Walters, which operates in more than 30 countries, said group net fee income was 102.4 million pounds ($127.5 million), flat on constant currency, in the first quarter that ended March 31, despite a 44% slump in mainland China due to the lingering impact of COVID-19 disruptions.

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