The organisation, which based its claim on the results of its annual industry survey, says the sector's turnover has increased by 15.2 per cent in 1999/2000, "contributing £18.5 billion to the buoyancy of the UK economy".
During an average week in the 12 months under review, the survey indicates that more than 1.1 million temporary and contract personnel found work through the recruitment industry - an increase of 15.7 per cent on the previous year. The permanent market also registered an increase in volume, although at nine percent - or just under 500,000 placements - the REC says this figure "confirms a rising demand for flexible staffing solutions".
Commenting on the results, REC chief executive Tim Nicholson says: "The recruitment industry has enjoyed three consecutive years of sustained growth and expansion now, and these new figures indicate that this trend is set to continue."
Nicholson maintains that technology has contributed significantly to the industry's ongoing growth and development, and adds: "The advent of on-line recruitment services and new technology have resulted in a much higher degree of speed and accessibility within the recruitment industry. It is successfully evolving in line with, and indeed driving, the increasing commercial appetite for fast turnaround recruitment and more direct client control."
However, the report's results contrast sharply with anecdotal evidence from readers who regard the job market as anything but strong, and from the decline in on page advertising recorded by the most recent Computer Weekly/SSP quarterly survey results.
The Annual Recruitment Industry Survey for 1999/2000 was compiled from the results of 588 returned questionnaires that cover 969 branches out of an estimated industry total of 11,173.