The survey has shown a major shift in employers' attitudes over the past month. This has resulted in a total of 44% saying they intend to increase their permanent staff in the next three months with 52% planning to hire new staff over the next 12 months. The proportion of employers applying headcount freezes continued to fall in April, reaching 20% - a dramatic improvement on the 43% peak figure in late 2010.
Short and medium term demand for temporary workers also remains strong as businesses look to build crucial flexibility into their workforce planning. A total of 22% plan to add to their numbers of agency workers in the next three months with the same percentage planning an increase over the next 12 months.
Some employers plan to gradually reduce use of temporary staff over the coming year, which reflects increasing willingness to start hiring permanent staff.
Commenting on the figures, Roger Tweedy, the REC's director of research, said: "This is the first real confirmation that employers are feeling more confident and are taking a long-term strategic view of their workforce planning. Creating more permanent jobs and the lifting of headcount freezes are solid indicators of this increasing confidence. This is encouraging news at what remains a difficult and volatile time for the UK jobs market".
"The survey also confirms the emergence of a two tier jobs market with 60% of public sector employers predicting a significant impact on their workforces as cuts begin to bite.
"The unexpected surge in business confidence gives hope that private sector employers can absorb further public sector job losses. However, this remains a big ask. Even if enough job opportunities are created, moving from public to private sector isn't easy. Effective support and guidance will be vital if we are to help workers make this transition".