Recruitment activity in the business services sector continues to outstrip that of other industries, despite growing fears of a double-dip recession, according to a study by professional staffing recruitment company Barclay Meade.

The number of businesses recruiting at above pre-recession levels has risen to 56% in Q3 from 48% over the past quarter. At the same time, the number of firms operating under a recruitment freeze has fallen for the fifth consecutive quarter, to 10%, the lowest of all industry sectors.

However, in keeping with the rest of the UK, fears of a double-dip recession have risen, with a third of employers (33%) now saying this is a barrier to recruitment, compared to just 23% in Q2 2011.

The recruitment landscape within the business services sector, which includes human resources, accounting, legal and marketing firms, has been shaped most dramatically over the last quarter by a sharp rise in demand for graduate and entry level job seekers. In Q2 of this year just under a third (29%) of businesses in this sector were looking to recruit at this level, but this has increased to 43% three months on.

The Barclay Meade ‘Tracking UK Recruitment’ report interviewed managers and owners of medium and large financial services organisations about their current recruitment plans and the landscape of their future workforce.

The research also revealed:

• Nearly half (42%) of employers say the threat of a double dip recession will be the biggest influence on the sector as a whole over the next six months
• Meanwhile nearly a quarter (24%) of employers have seen an increase in recruitment levels for skilled workers

Nigel Lynn, managing director of Barclay Meade, says: “While recruitment in many industry sectors has stagnated in recent months, the business services sector has shown greater resilience to waning business confidence.

“Despite growing fears that the UK will fall back into recession next year, the proportion of businesses acting under a recruitment freeze has fallen for the fifth consecutive quarter, and remains the lowest of all UK industries. The most enthused job seekers will be graduate and entry level candidates, as demand has increased significantly at this level.

“Looking forward, the wider UK economy will rely heavily on sectors demonstrating growth and resilience, and businesses services may be one of those bright spots, driving economic revival and growth. Either way, more still needs to be done to ensure the recruitment industry is catering for the specific needs of the business services sector and doing everything it can to support managers by delivering the right candidates for the right positions at the right time.”