Scottish firms appear to be looking to short-term workers to fill staffing vacancies, research from Royal Bank of Scotland has found.
Its Report on Jobs said the number of permanent staff appointments in Scotland had fallen for the first time in more than two and a half years.
Meanwhile, demand for temporary staff grew sharply in July.
The report said that indicators showed signs of a “softening” labour market.
Nick Stamenkovic, a senior economist with RBS, told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland it was a reflection of companies turning “a bit more cautious”, possibly due to the uncertainty of Brexit and deteriorating global economic factors.
However, he said it was just one month’s data and “does not suggest the start of a trend”.
Mr Stamenkovic said it showed how flexible the labour market was.
He said: “When times turn a little bit more difficult for companies they can cut costs by moving from permanent to temporary workers and if demand starts to fall sharply then they have the ability to lay off workers and cut costs more significantly.”
The economist said the move to temporary staff was “pretty broad-based” across the sectors of the Scottish economy.
“The only areas where you are seeing relative resilience is the accounting and finance sector, also engineering and construction,” he said.
“For some time IT and computing has shown significant increase in demand for staff but even there we are starting to see signs of softness.
“But for most companies employment growth remains positive and that is an important thing to bear in mind.”
Mr Stamenkovic said that with employment levels close to record highs there was evidence of skills shortages in some sectors.
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