Employment in the UK services sector has risen at near-record levels against a background of strong growth, according to a survey.
The Markit/CIPS UK Services Purchasing Managers’ Index showed the start-up of new projects, higher marketing activity and rising levels of new business as well as a need to clear backlogs contributed to the expansion.
David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said: “The survey offers positive news around employment levels, with procurement and supply management professionals indicating the joint second-highest rise in over 18 years of data collection.
“Staff recruitment levels also reflected business optimism for the future and not just for the fulfilment of backlogs and new orders arriving, experienced by a third of respondents.”
The index posted a reading of 57.2 in January, compared to 55.8 in December, representing growth for 25 months in succession. A reading of 50 indicates no change.
Average operating costs rose at the slowest rate in more than five-and-a-half years as lower fuel costs partially offset an increase in wages. Competitive pressures continued to restrict output price inflation, which was marginal in January.
Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: “Input costs across the private sector rose at the slowest rate since the height of the financial crisis in July 2009, suggesting headline inflation will continue to fall in the coming months. As such there seems little likelihood of the Monetary Policy Committee voting to hike interest rates any time soon, leaving early 2016 as still the most likely time for the first rate hike.”