Research by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation shows continuing shortages in a range of disciplines, including accountancy, project management, nursing, quantity surveying, engineering and sales.
Meanwhile, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that UK productivity fell by 1.2 per cent in the final quarter of last year with output per hour in the manufacturing sector now 0.7 per cent lower than it was in 2010.
Low productivity has bedevilled many sectors of British industry for years, with the UK having the lowest rate of any G7 nation with the exception of Japan.
In a separate report on Friday, the ONS said the UK’s trade deficit narrowed in February to £4.8 billion from £5.2 billion in January, but revealed that industrial output had fallen by 0.3 per cent month-on-month.
“Chancellor George Osborne will have been expecting a slight drop in today’s manufacturing production figures, especially amid the furore of steel giant Tata signalling their intention to close their Port Talbot plant, but the severity of the fall will have been surprising,” said Dennis de Jong, managing director at UFX.com.
“Global steel prices isn’t the only issue hurting manufacturing production. The rapidly approaching Brexit referendum is on a knife edge and, with the outcome uncertain, it may cause orders to dry up until the votes are counted.”