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UK recruiters report strongest hiring for a year in February

British businesses are hiring permanent staff at the fastest rate in a year and starting salaries have risen by the most in 11 months, recruiters said on Wednesday, suggesting the job market remains robust even as consumer spending falters.

Britain’s economy performed unexpectedly robustly after June 2016’s vote to leave the European Union, but finance minister Philip Hammond is likely to warn against complacency when he sets out new growth forecasts later on Wednesday.

Most economists expect growth to slow this year as rising inflation triggered by sterling’s post-referendum slump lowers households’ disposable income.

Retailers on Tuesday reported the first fall in non-food spending for five years during the three months to February.

However, Wednesday’s figures from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation suggest that the robust picture of the labour market shown in official data for the end of 2016 continued into the first part of 2017.

Demand for staff last month grew at the fastest rate in 18 months, and permanent employees were hired at the fastest pace in a year. Spending on temporary staff rose more slowly.

“This is a good time for individuals prepared to move jobs, with bumper pay offers on the table as hirers compete to secure the talent available,” REC chief executive Kevin Green said.

Other data have shown a less rosy picture for those employees who stick with their current jobs.

Inflation is fast catching up with an average pay rise of 2.6 percent in the three months to December, and employers surveyed by the Bank of England only planned to offer a 2.2 percent across-the-board pay rise this year.

The BoE forecasts consumer price inflation will reach 2.7 percent by the end of 2017.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Alison Williams)

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