The average number of applicants for every job has increased from 15 to 20 over the past year, rising to over 50 for some vacancies, new research has revealed.
Employment website totaljobs.com said areas such as Scotland and Wales had been hit by a "huge fall" in the number of vacancies available - down by 17% and 18% respectively.
The area with the biggest competition for jobs was the North East, with 23 applications for every job posted on the site in recent months.
Sectors such as accountancy, aerospace and engineering had seen strong growth this year, but this was offset by a "significant" fall in public sector jobs, which were down by 58% year-on-year, said the report.
Totaljobs said there was a danger that people would be desperate enough to apply for any kind of work rather than in their chosen career, which would increase the number of applicants.
John Salt, director of totaljobs.com, said: "At the tail end of 2011 we started to see a decline in the jobs market after a fairly buoyant start to the year. This slowdown has continued into 2012 with companies reluctant to take on more staff when the economy is teetering on the brink of a double dip recession.
"The economic recovery that was hoped for at the start of 2012 never materialised, and with projections that GDP is likely to remain stagnant, future labour market growth is difficult to see in the short term.
"The most alarming thing about these numbers is the sheer volume of applicants within sectors that are not seeing any jobs growth."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "These figures belie the Government's hollow claim that there are plenty of jobs out there. The long-awaited UK jobs recovery is getting pushed further back, thanks in part to the Chancellor's self-defeating economic policies."
The report was published ahead of new unemployment figures on Wednesday which are expected to show another increase on last month's total of 2.67 million, with 1.6 million jobseeker's allowance claimants.