British recruiters reported a record fall in job appointments and the first drop in wages for five years in October, industry group the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said in a survey published with accountants KPMG on Wednesday.
Demand for staff shrank sharply and both permanent and temporary staff appointments were at their weakest level since the start of the survey in October 1997.
The salaries index slipped into contraction, dropping to 45.7 from 50.0 for permanent employees, permanent placements plunged to 33.2 from September's 41.2, and temporary placements slid to 38.6 from September's 45.3.
"These are the worst figures we have seen since the report began ... with both vacancies and the number of job placements falling at an increasing rate," REC chief executive Kevin Green said.
Mike Stevens, a partner at KPMG, said the survey showed the credit crunch was likely to cause unemployment to rise further.