Recruitment agencies have reported a sustained increase in demand for staff, while the number of candidates continues to fall.

The availability of permanent and temporary workers fell sharply during July, said the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

The strongest increase in permanent placements was in the Midlands, followed by the North of England, while the weakest was in London, where growth fell to an eight-month low.

Kevin Green, REC chief executive, said: "The jobs market continues to confound expectations with both permanent and temporary placements growing at the fastest rate for over two years.

"Starting salaries are also still rising, so for workers who want to boost their earnings now is a good time to consider moving job.

"It's clear that employers are having to work even harder to fill jobs as vacancies rise and candidate availability shrinks.

"UK employment remains at an all-time high and looks set to keep improving.

"The parts of the economy most reliant on European workers are under even more pressure as many EU workers return home.

"Employers are not just struggling to hire the brightest and the best but also people to fill roles such as chefs, drivers and warehouse workers."