A four-point monthly rise in Monster’s UK Employment Index to 140 saw a return to 1% year-on-year growth following last month’s 3% decline. However a four-point drop in the European index to 138 marked a first annual fall since April 2010.

In the UK, it was interesting to note that the public sector recorded the strongest year-on-year online recruitment growth at 41% – an all-time high. (This suggests that government plans to reduce the public-sector payroll may be faltering, with official figures revealing a sharp slowdown in job cuts across Whitehall and local government over the summer.) Against this, marketing, PR & media recorded the steepest annual decline (-10%).

The month’s best-performing regions were the South West and Wales, followed by the North of England, Scotland and the South East. London and East Anglia were unchanged, while Northern Ireland and the Midlands were the only regions to register declines, albeit relatively marginal ones. In terms of annual growth, the North of England has now replaced the Midlands as the top performer.

“This month’s Index sees the public sector lead the way for the third consecutive month with a 41% year-over-year rate increase that sees an historical high for the sector,” says Julian Acquari, MD for Monster UK & Ireland. “It’s also encouraging to see an overall annual increase in online hiring activity in August, despite the Eurozone debt crisis continuing to influence companies’ recruitment plans. Regionally, the North of England was the clear top performer with an annual growth rate of 5%. East Anglia saw the biggest annual decline rate (-8%), closely followed by Northern Ireland (-7%).”

Put in the wider European context, the UK was the only one of the seven countries monitored to experience an increase in online recruitment activity during August, with all the others registering falls of varying degrees. The UK’s August performance also enabled it to join Germany as the only other country of the seven to show positive growth in year-on-year terms. At the opposite end of the scale, both the Netherlands and France have now recorded double-digit annual declines (of -16% and -13% respectively).

“As the Index registers its first decline since April 2010, it is clear we remain in an uncertain climate where even the previous stalwart Germany is seeing a moderated online recruitment trajectory in response to reduced business and consumer confidence across Europe,” says Alan Townsend, VP of sales readiness & business operations for Monster Europe. “However, it is not all bad news as demand for more than half of all industries in the Index have seen upticks in online hiring, including education and telecommunications.”

● As a periodic reminder, these indices reflect monthly job-posting activity based on a real-time review of millions of job opportunities culled from a wide representative selection of career sites and online job-listings across the continent. As such they are aggregate measures of changes in job-listings across the industry.