LONDON (Reuters) – British employers hired permanent staff at the fastest rate in five months in August, a recruiters’ body said on Friday, but it questioned how long this would continue in the face of uncertainty about Brexit.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) report also showed starting salaries for permanent staff picked up last month at the second-fastest pace in more than three years.
Overall the monthly survey, produced with data firm IHS Markit, added to signs of a tightening labour market in Britain, with companies struggling to find the workers they need.
Net migration of European Union nationals into Britain has fallen markedly since British voters opted to leave the bloc in a June 2016 referendum.
But employment has continued to grow strongly and the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest levels since the mid-1970s.
“How long our labour market can defy gravity if the shape of our future trading arrangements with the EU remain unclear is the big question,” REC chief executive Neil Carberry said.
“Companies are starting to implement contingency plans now — and those who aren’t will need to step up progress.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has yet to strike a deal with the EU on Britain’s departure from the bloc, raising the prospect of an economically damaging Brexit in less than seven months’ time.
Despite the fall in unemployment, official wage growth measures have not risen notably although they are largely in line with the forecasts of the Bank of England. It raised interest rates last month, saying it saw signs of inflation pressure from the labour market.
Official data last month showed net migration of European Union citizens into Britain fell to its lowest level since 2012 in the year to March, but this was more than outweighed by a record influx of non-EU citizens.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by William Schomberg)