PERMANENT staff appointments by recruitment agencies rose again last month in Scotland, in contrast to a fall in the UK as a whole, while availability of candidates deteriorated at the sharpest rate since September 2014, a survey shows.

There was also another sharp drop in candidate availability for temporary vacancies in Scotland, according to the survey published today by Royal Bank of Scotland.

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Sebastian Burnside, chief economist at Royal Bank, said of the outlook: “Firms looking to hire face difficulties amid low candidate availability and strong competition for staff.”

Starting salaries for permanent staff in Scotland rose strongly, and at the fastest pace for three months, in January. Wages for temporary staff north of the Border also continued to increase sharply.

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However, pay inflation for permanent and temporary staff was last month lower in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.

Although the rise in permanent staff appointments in Scotland in January was robust, it was the least-sharp in 10 months. Temporary staff billings in Scotland increased sharply again last month, rising at a significantly faster pace than in the UK as a whole.

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Mr Burnside said the continued expansion in permanent job placements and temporary staff billings in Scotland were further signs of “a tightening labour market”.

He added: “The rise in permanent staff appointments was the slowest in 10 months, but a notable divergence from the wider UK trend, where permanent placements declined for the first time since July 2016. Overall, survey data portrayed a favourable labour market for workers in Scotland, with pay pressures rising as a result of strong imbalances in staff supply and demand.”