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UK employers carried on hiring at pace from a shrinking pool of candidates in November, according to a closely-watched survey that suggests wage pressures were intensifying in the weeks before the emergence of the Omicron variant.

A majority of recruiters reported an increase in the number of people placed in both permanent and temporary jobs, with the strongest growth seen in London, according to the monthly report by KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

Vacancies were still rising, albeit more slowly, and candidates were in short supply, leaving recruiters struggling to fill positions. The proportion of recruiters reporting an increase in starting salaries for permanent hires was the highest on record, the REC said.

“The pace of demand for workers is running far faster than supply can keep up with, which is draining an already diminished pool of available talent and feeding into inflationary pressures,” said Claire Warnes, head of education, skills and productivity at KPMG.

However, the most recent real-time data suggests some businesses in the hospitality sector — until now the most afflicted by staff shortages — may be putting hiring plans on hold as the spread of Omicron disrupts pre-Christmas celebrations.

Figures released this week by Adzuna, the online jobs portal, showed adverts for hospitality and catering posts had fallen by 25 per cent in a week, with restaurant bookings also dipping.

Neil Carberry, the REC’s chief executive, said it was too early to tell how Omicron might affect the labour market, but that hiring might slow in December, with hospitality “in the forefront of any changes”, while high inflation would squeeze people’s purses in January.

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