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Jobless total forecast to rise

The jobs market remains "fragile", with unemployment expected to increase in the coming months, according to research among recruitment firms.

Information from 400 employment consultancies showed that permanent staff placements increased in April, but the rate of growth was the slowest since January.

Temporary jobs were becoming rarer, with fewer positions filled last month compared to March, said the report by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Bernard Brown, of KPMG, said: "The job market mirrors the frustration of April showers spilling into May. At first glance it is encouraging to see permanent job opportunities continue to improve, but there has also been a sharper decline in temporary placements.

"One ray of sunshine amidst the gloom is the Midlands, where engineering and construction opportunities have grown for the past six months.

"With the recent economic data in the UK and continued global economic uncertainties, the situation is unlikely to improve. Unemployment rates are likely to continue to rise in the short term. The question now is whether we start to push the three million mark."

Kevin Green, chief executive of REC, said: "This month's figures show growth in permanent jobs but at the slowest level since January. This highlights the fragile nature of the UK jobs market at present. Employer and consumer confidence are increasing and we anticipate more private sector jobs being created in the second half of the year.

"Temporary staffing is declining as employers take on more permanent staff and come to terms with the Agency Workers Regulations, however, temps will continue to be a valuable resource for many businesses."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "The Government is focusing on stabilising the public finances, supporting economic growth and helping the unemployed in these tough times.

"Last month we saw unemployment fall, and Jobcentre Plus takes 10,000 vacancies every working day. Our Work Programme is helping people into work and our Youth Contract includes extra apprenticeships and support for young people to help improve people's chances in the jobs market."