UK employers plan to hire staff at fastest rate since early days of financial crisis in late 2007, finds quarterly survey by CIPD; Britain's jobless rate fell to 6.9% in three months ended in February, lowest in five years

LONDON , May 12, 2014 () – British employers plan to hire staff at the fastest rate since the early days of the financial crisis, a business survey showed on Monday in a further sign the economy is picking up speed.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) quarterly net employment balance, which measures the difference between employers intending to hire staff and those planning to cut, rose to +26 from +16 in its previous report.

That was its highest level since late 2007, with surging confidence in the services sector driving the index higher.

The report comes ahead of the Bank of England's latest economic outlook on Wednesday. Its policymakers have said they are confident that companies can squeeze more out of their workers and machines as the economy gathers steam.

A separate report from data company Markit on Monday suggested that may be the case, saying more than a third of staff feel employers could make more use of their skills.

Britain's unemployment rate fell to 6.9 percent in the three months to February - its lowest in five years.

"The UK jobs market looks set to continue its remarkable post-recession performance," said Gerwyn Davies, labor market adviser at the CIPD.

The CIPD also said there was little evidence that labor market strength is causing recruitment difficulties for employers in the short term - contrasting with a report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) last week.

The REC said the availability of staff to fill permanent positions in April fell at the sharpest pace since October 2004.

Davies from the CIPD said skill shortages were relatively concentrated in particular sectors and jobs, with pay still weak compared to pre-recession levels.

"However, there is a danger that this may change if the labor market continues to tighten," he said.

The Markit survey showed 40 percent of part-time workers want to work more hours than they currently do.

"The survey therefore suggests that there remains plenty of scope for employers to get more out of their staff - almost one-in-five think they could do more work without too much effort," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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