COMPANIES are continuing to add staff with jobs growth almost back at its long-term rate, according to analysis by accountancy firm BDO.

BDO's employment index, which measures businesses' hiring intentions over the coming six months, has hit a 30-month peak.

The index reached 99.4 points in December, up from 98.3 in November and has now been above the 95 point level that indicates employment growth for 12 months.

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It is also approaching the 100 point market which points to jobs growth returning to its long-term trend.

Martin Gill, partner and head of BDO in Scotland, said: "We're encouraged to see that businesses are growing in confidence and have sharply increased their hiring intentions over the past month, which should help to keep the unemployment rate on a downward trajectory.

"The issue of unemployment is particularly important given the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's decision not to allow an interest rate rise until the unemployment rate is at or below 7%.

"The flip side of all this is that labour-productivity is still far below its pre-crisis peak."

The relative strength of the UK jobs market has been one of the great surprises of the prolonged economic downturn.

There is evidence that many workers received reduced pay or hours rather than being made redundant.

Mr Gill said that some 1.5 million people seeking full-time jobs were forced to work part-time between August and October.