LONDON           -         British employers last month increased their number of new permanent staff for the first time in a year, reflecting a modest rise in optimism after December’s election, a survey of recruiters showed on Friday. The figures from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, a trade body, add to signs that business confidence nudged up at the tail end of 2019, after being depressed by uncertainty over Brexit and the unclear political outlook. “With a new government in place and the path ahead looking more predictable, some businesses have decided that they have waited long enough,” REC chief executive Neil Carberry said. REC’s permanent staff placement index rose to 51.9 in December from 48.8 in November, its highest since December 2018 and above the 50-mark that divides growth from contraction for the first time since February. A broader index of demand for staff rose to a three-month high, as demand for temporary staff accelerated by less. Official data, which tends to lag behind trends in the REC data, showed renewed hiring in the three months to November after the biggest loss of jobs in four years during the three months to October. Unemployment is its lowest since 1975.