STARTING salaries for permanent jobs have risen at the sharpest pace ever recorded in a long-running economic survey.

The latest Bank of Scotland Report on Jobs, which is published today and is part of a series of bulletins going back 11 years, said the record increase in February was a result of the surging demand for employees alongside a further narrowing of the number of available candidates.

Another factor mentioned was competition for talented employees, which pushed up pay packages, while there was also an increasing number of senior management roles with larger salaries being filled. Permanent salaries in Glasgow rose the fastest in the month, with growth in wages in Scotland outstripping the UK for the third month in a row.

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Hourly pay rates for temporary workers were also said to have increased in February, with the biggest rise in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, the Bank's Labour Market Barometer, a composite indicator also published today and which provides a snapshot of labour market conditions, was up from 62.1 in January and reached a figure of 63.9 last month. That was the second-highest on record and just below the mark set in the June 2007 peak.

The Scottish barometer, compiled from data from more than 100 recruitment and employment consultancies, in February remained ahead of the UK, where the rating was 63.5 for last month. A figure greater than 50 signals an expansion in the market.

Donald MacRae, chief economist at Bank of Scotland, said: "This signalled a marked improvement in overall Scottish labour market conditions."

The fastest rises in permanent placements and temporary billings was recorded in Edinburgh, which continued a trend seen in the previous three months.

Aberdeen continues to be the region with the biggest problems in terms of availability of candidates, although the research suggested this was becoming more broad-based across the country. Accounting and finance staff were the most in demand, followed by engineering and construction then IT and computing.

Although all eight sectors covered in the data recorded an expansion, there was easing back in pace in five areas during February.

Of those that continued to experience growing demand, the growth recorded in the secretarial and clerical sector was the greatest in the survey's history.

For temporary posts, nursing, medical and care led the way for the 16th month in a row, with hotel and catering in second place.