The number of financial services IT contractors offered work more than halved last year, according to pre-employment screening firm Powerchex.

Just 704 IT contractors were offered jobs in 2009, 53 per cent fewer than the 1,492 in 2008. Alexandra Kelly, managing director at Powerchex, said: "With the slack labour market set to continue into 2010, I anticipate another difficult year for IT contractors."

In its annual financial services employment offers report, based on the 22,216 job applications Powerchex received in 2009, the screening firm also found that the total number of job offers in the sector was 38 per cent down compared with the previous year (a total 36,208 in 2008).

All industry sectors suffered declines, with investment banking worst hit. It experienced a 56 per cent decline in offers over the year, compared to 21 per cent for stockbrokerage firms, 23 per cent for hedge funds and 28 per cent for insurance companies.

Kelly said: "The sector has gone through the worst battering in 60 years and firms responded accordingly by drastically reducing staff. IT contractors were severely affected as financial firms put major capital improvement and expansion projects on hold or cancelled them altogether."

In one instance, during the 12-month period until June 2009, Lloyds TSB offshored 200 contractor positions.

However, job offers for IT contractors to the financial services sector did increase by 65 percent in Q4 2009, compared with the same period in 2008.

"With the onset of greater market activity, many firms are realising the need to start investing again as not to fall behind their industry rivals. Recruitment is beginning to pick up and projects that were delayed or abandoned with the onset of the recession are being resurrected," Kelly said.