LONDON (Reuters) - Demand for workers from British employers soared this month at the fastest rate since the late 1990s as much of the economy reopened following the latest coronavirus lockdown, a survey of recruitment consultants showed on Friday.
The monthly index of demand for staff from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and accountants KPMG rose this month to its highest level in just over 23 years. Permanent staff placements grew at the fastest rate since October 1997.
Non-essential retailers in England reopened on April 12 along with pubs and restaurants operating outdoors, and from May 17 more restrictions are due to be lifted to allow indoor hospitality, performances and sporting events.
While the labour market remains a long way from its pre-pandemic state, the REC survey adds to signs that a swift recovery is underway, helped by Britain's swift roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines.
"We are bouncing back from a record low – and many people are still struggling – but the data shows that job creation is firing up again," said Neil Carberry, REC's chief executive.
"The message for government and employers alike is that the long-term challenge is less likely to be high unemployment than attracting and training enough staff to keep our economy firing."
The survey came a day after the Bank of England said it now expected unemployment to rise only slightly to a peak of 5.4% in the third quarter of this year.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)