U.K. recruitment rises at fastest rate in 19 months: Survey

Employers 'cautiously optimistic'

LONDON (Reuters) — British firms hired permanent staff through recruitment agencies at the fastest rate since April 2011 last month, and the number of unfilled posts rose strongly too, according to a new survey.

The data also showed the fastest rate of recruitment for temporary jobs since March 2011, signalling an increase in employers' confidence to fill vacant positions.

The index measuring permanent job appointments hit its highest level since April 2011 at 56, according to the survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), a trade body, and business consultants KPMG.

This is the second consecutive month in which there has been above the 50-mark that denotes an increase in hiring.

"The negative outlook has been replaced by cautious optimism as employers gradually gain confidence to make decisions about the vacancies they want to fill," said Bernard Brown, KPMG head of business services.

Britain's labour market has proven surprisingly resilient over the past 12 months as firms kept creating jobs despite the weak economy. Unemployment has inched down and employment hit an all-time high in the three months to August.

Demand for staff also climbed to a 19-month high, with robust calls from private sector employers offsetting a weak public sector.

"With the latest figures hinting that robust demand in business is offsetting weak demand across the public sector, we might just be seeing signs of resilience," Brown said.

But a recent slew of negative data pointing to slower growth in the fourth quarter may dampen optimism that the U.K. can remain out of recession.

"Recovery is by no means certain and we need a few more months like this to suggest that emerging trends are translating into a sustained period of growth in employment," he added.

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