UK workers
Permanent placements across the UK rose for the fifth successive month in DecemberReuters

UK businesses continued to take on more permanent staff in December, with those in London hiring at the fastest pace in 10 months, a fresh survey has revealed.

A poll of 400 recruitment and employment consultancies by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) revealed that hiring continued in December, albeit at a slightly slower pace compared to November's nine-month peak.

The permanent staff placements index eased to 55.2 in December from 55.6 in November. A reading above 50 indicates a higher number of placements compared to the previous month.

In addition, the growth of temp billings quickened to its fastest rate since April.

"The jobs market continues to beat expectations as we begin the New Year. More people are finding jobs each month, and demand for staff is growing," REC chief executive Kevin Green said.

"We've seen two months of growth in London, which is particularly encouraging following a difficult period between the EU referendum and October."

However, Green added that there were concerns over how employers will fill vacancies in the coming months amid a shrinking pool of available candidates.

"The big question for 2017 is about how employers will fill vacancies. The unemployment rate is at a record low and candidate availability for temporary jobs has been getting worse for the last three and a half years," he stated.

"There is an urgent need for people to fill roles in catering, care, and food manufacturing – in these sectors especially employers rely heavily on workers from the EU."

The Midlands saw the biggest increase in permanent staff placements, while Scotland saw placements decline for the third month in a row.

Permanent placements in London grew for the second straight month in December after falling for six consecutive months, while the number of permanent vacancies increased at the fastest rate in 10 months.

The availability of permanent candidates in the capital fell for the 43rd consecutive month.