· News

Permanent job placements increase to six month high

The number of people placed in permanent jobs continued to increase in May, with the rate of expansion quickening to a six-month high but pay rates drop to lowest rate in seven months, according to the latest Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG report on jobs.

There was also a further expansion of job vacancies as demand for staff rose in May. Although easing to a nine-month low, the rate of growth remained solid.

The report provides a comprehensive guide to the UK labour market and draws on original survey data provided by recruitment consultancies.

It showed permanent staff salaries continued to rise but only at a modest rate and the weakest for seven months. Temporary and contract staff hourly pay rates also rose, with the rate of growth quickening slightly since April.

On a regional basis, the midlands, the north and the south all registered solid growth of permanent placements during the latest survey period, whereas London saw a moderate decline.

The report found public sector permanent vacancies fell for a fifth consecutive month in May, albeit at a slower rate. Meanwhile, public sector temporary vacancies increased slightly following a decline in April.

Private sector permanent vacancies rose strongly, with the rate of growth accelerating to the fastest since comparable data were available in December 2011. Similarly, private sector temporary vacancies increased at the sharpest pace for six months.

Engineering remained the most sought-after permanent staff category during May. All other types registered higher demand except construction, where stagnation was recorded.

Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG, said: "It looks as if months of rhetoric are finally becoming a reality. With permanent placements hitting a six-month high, it seems that private sector jobs are boosting the chances of economic growth.

"The latest figures certainly give the strongest indication for some time that the jobs market is on an upward trajectory. However the pay off seems to be a slow-down in salary growth as new starters' pay has slowed to its lowest level since the turn of the year.

"In other words, as employers look to stabilise and prepare for a more positive economic environment, their message to employees remains one of caution. Right now it's a position most will accept as, with uncertainty still the watch-word, the preference for permanent positions will undoubtedly outweigh moves for more money."

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: "This month's data is a strong indicator that the jobs market, the unsung hero of the UK economy over the last 18 months, is picking up pace. Permanent employment is at a six-month high while the use of temps is also growing after last month's blip.

"Recruiters tell us that employers are more optimistic and are planning to increase their temporary and permanent hiring. This is supported by the expansion of job vacancies and a slight increase in starting salaries."

Green added: "The only cloud on the horizon is that the skills mismatch is becoming more pronounced. Employers are struggling to find the skilled candidates they need in sales, marketing and business development to prepare for the upturn in the UK economy, while the majority of the unemployed do not have the skills for the jobs that are available."