Permanent computing jobs grew faster last month than any other sector, according to a major survey of UK recruitment firms.

The increase in demand for IT staff put the sector's growth above all other sectors, after it came second behind secretarial staff in February.

The data was revealed in the latest report by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which found that March saw the strongest growth of permanent placements since October 1997. The report is based on a survey of 400 UK recruitment consultants.

The data demonstrates a growth in demand, but does not necessarily indicate that the IT industry has the most available jobs. The report uses a figure to represent demand, where anything below 50 indicates a drop on the previous month. The figure for IT staff last month was 65.1, double that of a year before (32.9) and up slightly from February’s 64.7 figure.

Meanwhile, demand for contract IT staff grew significantly, from fourth place in February (57.5) to second place in March (58.5). Demand for contract secretarial staff continued to hold pole position.

In terms of the skills that consultancies said were in short supply, these included Sharepoint skills, analysts, software sales, developers and technical managers. Sharepoint skills were also lacking amongst contract IT staff.

Although the researchers were buoyed by the general strong growth of permanent employments, the threat of a public sector recession is still looming, they said.

Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG, warned: "A lot of the current hiring activity is going on in the public sector. The public sector recession, which is clearly on the cards, hasn’t hit the jobs market yet but when it does, the upwards trend we have seen over the last couple of months may come to a halt."

Kevin Green, chief executive of the REC, added: "The overall outlook is tempered by public expenditure cuts which are already impacting on recruitment in this sector. Deep-rooted reforms and innovative approaches to public sector resourcing will be needed in order to maintain frontline services."