LONDON (Reuters) – British employers’ demand for staff accelerated in February, with a job vacancy index seeing the biggest monthly jump in more than six years, a survey of recruiters showed on Friday.
The index of demand for staff from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and accountants KPMG, which is monitored by the Bank of England, rose to 57.2 in February, its highest since January 2019.
The increase in the index from 54.8 in January was the biggest since July 2013.
Permanent job placements rose at the fastest rate for 14 months, with northern England seeing the steepest increase and London the only area to report a decline.
Temporary staff billings fell for a second month which could be due to companies putting a ban on hiring contractors ahead of tax changes due next month, the REC said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election win in December cleared up some of the short-term uncertainty about Brexit and removed the possibility of a Labour government which planned to increase state involvement in the economy.
“Looking ahead, the current big unknown is the impact and influence the coronavirus may have on market confidence, let alone the lingering uncertainty around the actual Brexit deal,” said James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG.
“Businesses will be hoping that next week’s budget provides some relief and investment to help get the UK back on a path to growth,” he added.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said on Tuesday the spread of the virus could cause a “large but temporary” shock.
The REC survey showed starting salaries for permanent staff rose at a faster rate than the previous month as employers struggled to fill their vacancies.
Britain’s job market largely defied a broader economic slowdown in the run-up to December’s election last year, though wage growth has slowed somewhat.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by William Schomberg and David Milliken)