Job prospects in private firms remain healthy, but a North-South divide is opening up in recruitment intentions, according to a new report.

Research showed half of employers in areas including London and the East Midlands planned to recruit extra staff in coming months, but the figure fell to less than a third in the West Midlands and North-west.

Four out of five Scottish and Welsh firms said they would hire new staff, a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development study found.

Only one in five public-sector organisations said they would recruit, with a third predicting redundancies.

CIPD chief economist John Philpott said: "With the economy continuing to grow, recruitment activity is picking up in the private sector.

"However, owing to efforts by the Government to encourage incapacity benefit claimants back to work and ongoing migrant labour recruitment, this has not yet brought about lower unemployment."

Michael Carter of KPMG, which helped with the research, said: "The survey findings show, whilst recruitment intentions have improved, especially in London and the South, this trend is not repeated universally.

"Some areas, particularly the North and West Midlands, are experiencing recruitment pessimism."

Official unemployment figures are due today.