The first quarter of 2015 saw the UK technology sector experience its biggest ever surge in hiring despite sales treading water in advance of the General Election, according to KPMG’s latest Tech Monitor survey.
Dealing with the less positive news first, KPMG describes a “stuttering” start to 2015 as sales growth slowed compared to previous quarters. Respondents blamed this on political uncertainty around the Election but improved demand from foreign markets such as the US offset some of the weakness.
Sectors that did well included biotech, retail and the hot potato of cybersecurity; the major area of weakness was, not surprisngly, the public sector.
Overall, activity on the KPMG/Markit Tech Monitor UK Business Activity Index dropped from 59.6 at the end of 2014 to 55.7, its lowest since mid-2013 (50 on this scale equals no change).
Offsetting this softness, tech sector hiring rose at a record pace, the highest since the survey was started in 2003, with the PMI Employment Index moving from the already healthy 55.3 to 57.8. For context, the Index has tended to show smaller changes in the periods it rose offsetting three years – 2003, 2008 and 2009 – when it dropped below 50.
“The resilience of the UK Tech sector has been quite notable over the last 12 years where it has outstripped the wider UK economy,” observed KPMG’s technology sector head, Tudor Aw.
“Importantly, it has delivered ‘lower lows and higher highs’ during periods of turbulence, along with faster recovery periods. Allied with its job creation record, it has presented a compelling case for focus and support from political parties – something I would like to hear more of in their respective election manifestos.”
Aw has a point. The issue of job creation – and the tech sector’s effect on that – has been almost absent from the political debate since the Election was called, buried beneath a to and fro on the subject of austerity and public investment.
The fact that tech was now fundamental to almost all businesses meant that the country needed to keep investing in STEM subjects and computing to prime the education system, Aw said.
KPMG’s figures estimate that the UK tech sector now accounts for one million jobs and has expanded by a quarter since a low point in 2010, a job creation rate that is roughly three times that of the wider economy. The annual pace of jobs growth appears to be around seven to eight percent, KPMG said.
Looking ahead, the survey found a generally positive outlook for the rest of 2015 with 55 percent anticipating a growth in business and only seven percent aa decrease. But, as ever, technology remains dependant not only on the UK economy for its continued growth but expansion in the EU and beyond.