EMPLOYMENT is at near record levels, with recruitment becoming an “employee’s market”, new figures suggest.

The announcement that joblessness stands at four per cent – the lowest rate since 1975 – boosts the prospect for job-hunters during exam results season.

But it will also fuel concerns among businesses that it is getting harder to find staff.

David McArthur, of JobCentre Plus in Bournemouth, said: “The number of people employed in the South West is now at 2.79million, up 45,000 on the year.

“Moreover, the South West has the highest employment rate in the country. At 79.4 per cent, it is well above the national average of 75.6 per cent.

“Unemployment in the South West has fallen by 76,000 since 2010, currently at 82,000.”

The inactivity rate in the region is 18.1 per cent, the lowest in the country, against a UK average of 21.2 per cent.

Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “Unemployment is at its lowest for over 40 years, which on the surface is great news for the economy. However, it’s presenting businesses with a real recruitment challenge. I don’t think it’s a skills gap issue – it’s the case that there are more opportunities available than there are job seekers.

“It’s an employee’s market and filling those vacancies is a real challenge. Employers need to focus on not just salaries but also other benefits they can offer employees.

“Increasingly, people are looking to work for businesses that have strong social impact or a strong purpose and becoming selective in the type of business they work for. Businesses need a strong focus on internal marketing to make sure they’re looking after existing employees and minimising staff turnover.”

Angela Piromalli, chief executive of Bournemouth-based Rock Recruitment, said: “We are in a candidate-led market and many businesses have recognised in order to retain good staff they need to invest in them. This creates a sense of loyalty and trust in the employer/employee relationship.

“Of course there is a level of uncertainty within the coming months, and taking into consideration financial, social and political factors the market still remains buoyant. There is no reason why the unemployment figures won’t continue to descend – great news for the economy.”