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18 August 2014, 05:00
The recovery in Scotland's labour market has stepped up a gear with record rises in permanent jobs and starting salaries, according to Bank of Scotland.
A strong and broad-based demand for staff has continued to drive the upturn, the bank's latest jobs report found.
But a sharp drop in the number of candidates for vacancies has been described as a "cause for concern'', having fallen continuously since early 2012.
Donald MacRae, chief economist at Bank of Scotland, said: "July's Barometer provided further proof of the continuing recovery.
"The month saw survey-record increases in both the number of people appointed to permanent jobs and in starting salaries.
"Demand for both permanent and temporary staff was expressed by a surge in vacancies accompanied by a drop in the number of candidates available.
"These trends should lead to further gains in employment and eventually to an increase in overall earnings growth. The Scottish economy continues to recover strongly.''
The number of people placed in permanent jobs rose sharply in July, with the rate of growth the fastest in the survey's eleven-and-a-half year history.
Furthermore, the rise in permanent appointments north of the border was far sharper than across the UK economy as a whole.
The employment of temporary/contract staff rose to the greatest extent since January.
There was a record increase in salaries July, which saw a second consecutive survey-record increase permanent starting salaries.
Salary inflation was also faster than the UK average for the first time since February. A similar trend was recorded for temporary hourly pay rates, growth of which hit a four-month high.
Behind the faster increases in placements and pay was a further strengthening of demand for staff in July. Vacancies were up across both the permanent and temporary jobs spaces, with the number of openings having risen more markedly than in the previous month.
Permanent staff demand was strongest in the IT & Computing sector, while on the temporary job front it was Nursing/Medical/Care staff that were the most sought-after.
Permanent employee availability decreased markedly, albeit at a slightly slower rate than June. The degree to which temporary candidate supply decreased, however, was the most marked since December 2004.
Scotland's unemployment rate of 3.5% - its lowest since December 2008 - placed it joint-sixth in the regional labour market ranking.
The latest decline in the claimant count north of the border was meanwhile the greatest since monthly data were first collected in 2006, down 4,000 to 96,000.