The number of permanent placements made by recruitment consultancies shot up alongside average salaries last month, according to figures published by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG.

According to their latest joint Report on Jobs, permanent appointments rocketed upwards at the fastest rate in nearly four years in February, indicating that employers are becoming much more optimistic about their prospects and are willing to commit to more permanent members of staff.

It was matched by another significant rise in the number of vacancies which illustrated the strength of demand – REC says the pace at which vacancies rose was only slightly below January’s figure, which was the highest in more than 15 years.

But the combination of a spike in demand and more candidates finding roles has led to a decline in availability, leaving many employers struggling to find the skills they need. In fact, the supply of new permanent talent was particularly dramatic, dropping quicker than at any time since November 2004.

According to Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG, this is also down to many workers who are already in roles choosing not to test the waters and seek another job. But he adds any concerns about the future of the employment market that might be putting people off seeking jobs should not be taken too seriously.

“Temporary placements are falling and with starting salaries rising at their highest rate for almost seven years, all the indications are that any concerns over job security may be unwarranted,” he says.

“The simple fact is that employers wouldn’t be competing to offer candidates ever increasing salaries if they couldn’t afford to sustain them.”

It appears that the drop in availability is encouraging organisations to offer better compensation. Salaries for permanent staff rose at the fastest rate in more than six years, the data shows, which means that job-hunters may well be able to take advantage of any number of great opportunities.

But REC chief executive Kevin Green says that the most serious issues with availability come down to a simple lack of specialised skills, which is taking a considerable toll on the business landscape.

“Recruiters are struggling to source the managerial and technical skills that employers require and this will only get worse as the economy strengthens,” he says.