Over 25% of UK companies intend to recruit more staff in the next year – twice as many as planned to expand their workforce in 2009, a survey has suggested.

Around 28% of companies said they would increase their headcount during the coming 12 months, with 15% planning significant increases, according to accountancy firm PwC.

PwC questioned HR directors at 1,100 companies across Europe and the US. The group said the picture is similar across the US and much of Europe, as companies look to recruit again.

The UK change is a marked turnaround from last year, when just 13% of firms said they planned to take on more staff, while 43% thought they would be making cuts. The number of businesses that expect to reduce their workforce has now shrunk to just 16%.

Michael Rendell, head of HR services at PwC, said: “The expected headcount increases are encouraging news for the job market and suggest the private sector will be able to accommodate those public sector workers who are made redundant.

“While 13% of firms say the new jobs will be making up for reductions made during the downtown, 15% plan significant increases over and above this point. This shows a confidence that economic growth will continue, notwithstanding geopolitical uncertainty and the sovereign debt crisis.

“We expect demand to be particularly high among services, technology and manufacturing industries.”

But companies are worried about finding the right people for their new posts, with 53% of UK firms citing skills shortages as the biggest challenge they face this year, compared with just 27% in the US. Other major challenges identified by UK firms include global mobility, cited by 34%, and employment laws at 23%.