Christmas deliveries could be hit by a shortage of drivers, according to a new report. A study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation showed a huge fall in the availability of temporary and contract staff in recent weeks, especially for drivers.

Chief executive Kevin Green warned that the skills crisis facing some sectors could make it a “sad” Christmas. “More than two thirds of recruiters that supply drivers said that a shortage of candidates will cause chaos for shops and delayed deliveries for shoppers,” he said.

A shortage of temporary skilled staff was also reported in construction, engineering, nursing, computing and catering. The availability of temporary or contract staff fell at its steepest rate in 18 years in November.

Permanent staff placements increased at its strongest rate for seven months, coupled with an increase in pay.

Midlands-based agencies reported the fastest growth in temporary jobs, while demand for staff remained stronger in private firms than in the public sector.

Mr Green added: “Businesses are confident, with more people finding permanent jobs each month and pay increasing, which is a great way to cap a bumper year for the UK labour market.

“Such is the demand for staff that the availability of people to fill temporary roles has fallen at the sharpest rate in 18 years. In part this has been driven by businesses taking on additional staff for the Christmas period.

“As we look ahead to 2016 the data suggests that the public sector is starting to cut its recruitment activity as austerity bites, while the private sector is still hunting for skills and talent.”

Bernard Brown of KPMG, which helped with the research, said few sectors were immune from the effects of ongoing skills shortages.

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