The JobsOutlook survey, which tracks future hiring intentions, also reveals nearly two thirds (62%) of employers say they are planning to increase their permanent staffing levels over the next three months, with a further 32% planning to maintain staffing levels at the same rate Over the longer term, 57% expect to grow their permanent workforce with a further 42% planning to keep it at the same level.
Almost a third (31%) of employers said they were planning to grow their temporary workforce over the next three months with another 54% planning to keep them at existing levels. For the longer term, the trend is up higher with 26% looking to increase their contingent labour force and another 63% planning to keep them at their current levels.
This represents a ten-point rise between January and February and is good news in light of concerns over the potential impact of the Agency Workers Regulations. April will mark six months since the regulations came into force on 1 October last year.
A significant difference has now emerged in the workforce planning profiles of the public and private sectors. Public sector employers are now deploying a range of measures to reduce workforce costs including reduced pay and hours and increased redundancies. Workforce planning in the private sector has now returned to a more stable state with nearly half of employers not making any new adjustments to their plans.
Employers continue to report shortages of permanent staff in computing, IT and the telecoms sector. Technical and engineering headed the most sought-after skills in the temporary employment sector.
Commenting on the latest statistics, Roger Tweedy, the REC's director of research said: "The fact that nearly two thirds of employers continue to predict a slight increase in permanent staffing is clearly a positive sign that is likely to be bolstered by this week's budget. Overall business and consumer confidence, although still fragile, also seems to be picking up.
"Last year, employer confidence began to build at this time only to fall away sharply over the summer, so it is still early days. However, there are signs that the current momentum in the jobs market will be more durable this time round."