The Scottish jobs market is going through a "tough patch'', with fewer people securing permanent positions and salary growth slowing down, according to a report.
The Report on Jobs: Scotland also found the country's economy is "under-performing'' relative to the UK as a whole.
Analysts concluded that December saw the steepest decrease in the number of people placed in permanent jobs by Scottish recruitment consultancies for more than seven years.
Following recent "marginal'' decreases, the rate of decline picked up to the fastest seen since June 2009, the study noted.
That contrasted with further - albeit slightly slower - growth in permanent placements across the UK.
There was also a sharp slowdown in growth of permanent salaries, which rose at the weakest rate seen in almost four years, the study found. Again, that put Scotland behind the UK average, experts said.
Recruiters further recorded a marked drop in the availability of candidates for permanent jobs last month, the sharpest fall since August.
They also spotted a fractional reduction in the availability of candidates for temporary jobs, ending a six-month run of improvement.
On a brighter note, the report pointed to a strong rise in hourly rates of pay for temporary staff.
Wage inflation in the temporary jobs market was found to be the fastest since May, matching the trend seen at the UK level.
Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) - the body which commissioned the report - said: "The jobs market in Scotland is going through a tough patch, with fewer people securing permanent jobs each month and salary growth slowing down.
"Scotland's economy is under-performing relative to the UK, the energy sector has weakened and the referendum result has brought uncertainty.
"These factors are all having a significant impact on business confidence.
"Employers are continuing to post vacancies in Scotland, which suggest that demand for staff is strong, but employers are showing hesitancy when it comes to making hiring decisions.
"It's possible that the jobs market will pick up again quickly if confidence is shored up.
"The government can help this by providing clarity on their priorities for the EU negotiations and the likely impact on employers.''
Analysts surveyed about 100 recruitment and employment consultants across Scotland for the latest monthly study.
The report was compiled for the REC by Markit.