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UK contractor rates... contract

Builder: Average hourly rates have fallen 11 percent since May, but some contractor jobs still command a healthy premium -- if you have the right skills

The second half of 2004 has seen average hourly rates for contractors fall and a furthering of the divide which sets London and the South-East apart from the rest of the UK in terms of pay and opportunities.

Average hourly rates have fallen 11 percent from £26.10 to £23.35 since May, according to industry portal Contractor UK, but some skills still reward contractors with salaries around £70 per hour.

The fall is seen as being in part seasonal -- a reflection of the influx of new graduates into the market as their courses finished in June. Average rates for graduates fell from £22 to £16 per hour as they diluted their workforce and made it more of an employers' market.

Geographical variance is also an issue. While the streets of London are far from 'paved with gold' they do still offer the best chance of a fat pay cheque. The average contractor rate in the City of London is £30 per hour -- 15 percent higher than second place Greater London. London also offers the best chance of getting a job, with 39 per cent of contractor positions currently advertised either in or around the capital.

By comparison, the Midlands, which offers the best chance of finding work outside the South-East, boast a relatively paltry 3 percent of advertised positions.

SAP is still a rich seam of reward to tap into, with average hourly rates of £70 for some modules (HR, MM, SEM and WM). ERP is also something of a cash cow, holding top spot in the money stakes, with PeopleSoft HRMS contractors raking in £100 per hour.

Jeff Brooks, operations director for Parity, said: "SAP and others have shrink-wrapped their offerings and made them available to smaller organisations, which has made SAP a more appealing skill to have."

According to Contractor UK's top 10, FileMaker is the second most costly contract skill for employers, commanding £95 per hour. However, to call it niche is an understatement -- it is requested in 0.01 per cent of contractor ads.

The most common role advertised is that of the developer (19 per cent of ads).