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(Reuters) — The number of people hired for permanent jobs via recruitment firms in Britain fell for a fourth month in a row in June, underscoring a slowdown in the sector this year as Brexit uncertainty weighs on employers, a survey showed.
For temporary staff, hiring rose marginally in June, marking the weakest patch of growth since May 2013 when Britain’s economy began to emerge from the aftereffects of the global financial crisis, REC, a recruitment industry group, said.
“Brexit stagnation continues to seize up the jobs market as the slowdown in recruitment activity continues,” James Stewart, vice chair at KPMG which produces the report with REC, said.
Britain’s economy has lost momentum and might have contracted in the second quarter after a strong start to the year when many companies rushed to get ready for the original Brexit deadline of March 29.
The deadline has been delayed until Oct. 31, and both candidates to replacement Prime Minister Theresa May have said they would quit the European Union without the cushion of a transition deal if they have to.
A separate survey published earlier on Friday showed British businesses turned gloomier about the economy as the country’s political crisis deepens, bucking an improvement in sentiment earlier this year.
The REC recruitment survey showed information technology and computing firms hired more workers but hiring at retailers and builders fell.
Britain’s labor market has been one of the strengths of the economy since the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Unemployment fell to its lowest rate since 1975 at 3.8% in the first quarter of 2019, according to official data.
But respondents in the REC survey said the low jobless rate and a reluctance by workers to change roles were leading to shortages of candidates to fill vacancies.
With staff hard to find, wage growth data remained robust, with wages awarded to temporary staff rising at the fastest pace in seven months.
“The gentle slowdown in permanent hiring and slower growth of temp billings is a reminder to all politicians that businesses and employees across the country are looking for a smooth path to a negotiated Brexit outcome,” REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry said.
Stephen Phipson, chief executive of manufacturers' association MakeUK, said that Brexit-related uncertainty has forced U.K.-based manufacturers to curb investments and new business plans, Bloomberg reported. Mr. Phipson said that several European customers are postponing purchases and seeking alternative suppliers due to Brexit-related uncertainty, he added.