Strikes in France, political uncertainty in the UK, a slowing German economy and the Australian bushfires all took their toll on recruiter Hays, as the company issued a profit warning.
Bosses at the firm said they expect to see profits in the first half of the year fall to around £100 million, compared with £124 million last year.
Chief executive Alistair Cox said: “Growth slowed markedly in December, driven by specific events in key markets: general strikes in France, tragic
Australian bushfires and the UK election.
“Each event impacted markets already facing challenging economic conditions and low business confidence.”
Around 45% of all fees made by Hays come through those three countries.
He added: “Overall, we expect near-term macro conditions to remain difficult, but see continued opportunities for growth in key specialisms like IT.”
Shares in the group fell 3%, down 5.5p to 167.1p by lunchtime on Thursday.
In the UK, fee growth fell 4% year-on-year in the three months to December 31, with the private sector suffering most.
Fees from recruiting for permanent jobs was particularly hard hit in the UK, with a 7% fall, compared with a 1% decline for temporary position.
Companies have been holding off making large scale investments and employment drives, particularly in the UK as Brexit reached a crescendo last year.
But Mr Cox said he hoped the general election could “provide impetus over time” to the market to regain some confidence.
In Germany, Hays’ biggest market, fees fell 9% with the manufacturing sector slowing.
The company added that the stagnation is filtering through to financial and services sectors.
Total fees fell 4% overall, helped by stronger growth in the US.