The recent economic downturn has led to an increase in competition for jobs as employers are offering fewer roles, according to a recruitment company.

While some businesses are recruiting, they may just be keeping close to the market to see who they have access to when the economy improves, Adecco says.

According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the working age employment rate was 74.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2008 – a decrease of 0.4 per cent from the previous quarter.

Steven Kirkpatrick, managing director of Adecco, said the market for jobs will become more competitive than it has been for a long time.

"That does not necessarily mean that firms are not looking for people, just that they are being that much more selective over who they bring on board," he added.

Figures released by the ONS also show the number of unemployed workers increased by 140,000 over the third quarter of 2008.

According to a report by the Trades Union Congress, the amount of people unemployed for at least a year could rise from 400,000 to 700,000 by the end of 2009.