Jan 12 (Reuters) - British staffing company Hays reported a rise in quarterly net fees as growth in continental Europe and Asia offset tough conditions in Britain where firms remained cautious as the country prepares to exit the European Union.
The company, which places workers in areas such as finance and IT, said second-quarter group net fees at constant currencies rose 2 percent in the three months to Dec. 31.
Net fees from its UK and Ireland operations, which account for about a quarter of Hays' gross profit, fell 10 percent, but remained stable over the preceding quarter, Hays said in its trading update.
"In the UK, public sector markets remain tough, but we see early signs of improvement in the private sector market," Chief Executive Officer Alistair Cox said.
Net fees from Hays' UK private sector business, which accounts for 71 percent of its operations in the country, fell 9 percent, Hays said.
Staffing firms such as Hays, PageGroup, SThree and Robert Walters, are seen as gauges of wider economic health because people tend to switch jobs more often when confidence rises.
Although most British staffing companies have been hit by uncertainty following the Brexit vote in June, growth in their international businesses have more then offset the impact, allowing them to raise earnings.
Hays, which operates in 33 markets, said net fees from its continental Europe and rest of world operations grew 8 percent at constant currencies. (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Esha Vaish in Bengaluru; editing by Jason Neely)