Jobs freeze in 'knife-edge' market
A survey of 2,100 employers by recruitment firm Manpower found that four out of five had no plans to hire more workers in the next three months.
A new East-West divide had also emerged, with employers in Eastern England the most positive about employment prospects, while those in the West of England, Wales and Northern Ireland were pessimistic.
Mark Cahill, Manpower's managing director, said: "The 2012 jobs market sits on a knife-edge. In some ways this is a reflection of a weakening economy. We hear stories about companies hoarding cash and not investing and we see a number of business sectors battening down the hatches, holding on to existing levels of staff and not hiring with any great enthusiasm.
"Employers have adopted a wait-and-see approach to hiring - they are cautious about the economy and the fear of a Euro-wide contagion is weighing heavily on their minds."
Another study found that half of graduates had been considering becoming self-employed and 15% have been looking for a job for more than a year.
A survey of 530 university leavers by recruitment firm totaljobs.com found that a "stale" jobs market was forcing many graduates to seek an alternative route to employment.
Just one in four of those questioned said they had been invited to an interview after applying for jobs.
Mike Fetters of totaljobs.com said: "With European economies in a worrying state and the UK labour market experiencing a 17-year low, competition for graduate jobs is increasingly tough. Therefore, it's not surprising graduates are looking at the alternative routes and it's great to see this entrepreneurial spirit amongst young people."
© 2011 Press Association