Redundancies among senior British managers are at their highest level since 2001, with the number of managers being shown the door doubling in the past 12 months.
Yet the gloomy prognosis from the UK Chartered Management Institute has also turned up a surprising statistic – average earnings for Britain's executives have risen 6.7 per cent this year, up from 5.3 per cent in 2007.
The CMI's 2008 National Management Salary Survey, carried out in conjunction with research body CELRE, has uncovered a redundancy rate of three per cent across the UK's senior management teams.
The figure has more than doubled over the past 12 months (from 1.4 per cent) and is at its highest for seven years, when senior redundancies reached 3.7 per cent in 2001, said the CMI.
The survey is yet more evidence of how the credit crunch and uncertain economic picture is reaching right to the top.
Earlier this month a study of nearly 2,000 U.S high net worth individuals (or those with assets of more than $1m not including their primary residence) by life insurance firm Phoenix found growing levels of pessimism and even anxiety about their current and future financial health among even this elite.
And last month a poll of U.S job-seekers earning $100,000 or more by recruitment firm TheLadders.com found clear evidence that senior-level job-seekers were feeling the impact of recession as much as workers further down the career scale.
Three quarters of these executives looking for jobs were suddenly finding it much harder to land job interviews, it concluded.
The CMI study found, when it came to rising pay levels, that it was junior executives who were generally the biggest beneficiaries.
They received an average increase in basic pay of 5.4 per cent, compared with five per cent for directors and 4.8 per cent for managers.
In real terms, the findings revealed an average basic salary of £22,352 for junior executives across the UK.
Surprisingly, given the economic climate and increased earning power, the data also suggested that UK executives were willing to risk their job security.
Resignations were currently running at 6.5 per cent, representing the second highest figure over the past decade.
Asked why employees left, three-quarters blamed competition from other organisations or headhunting.
Almost half admitted they were failing to provide adequate career opportunities or development programmes.
And around a tenth said their employees left because of frustrations with the working environment or bureaucratic leadership styles.
Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at the CMI, says: "Increased levels of pay are clearly not enough to retain employee loyalty despite the uncertain economic climate.
"Given the skills crisis, it is worrying to see so many executives voting with their feet and this must surely send a message to employers that, to retain the best talent, they need to address working environments and long-term career aspirations," she added.
Further analysis also showed that retention was not the only problem confronting organisations.
Eight out of 10 of those polled said they continued to face difficulties filling vacant roles, with the main reasons being a lack of candidates with specialist skills (70 per cent) and the salaries on offer (57 per cent).
This finding echoes a poll last month by the U.S-based Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations which argued that a combination of ageing workforces in the West and intense demand for skilled workers in developing nations has created a global talent crunch that could in time rival the financial credit crunch for its effect on the ability of firms to function and expand.
The CMI study also suggested that the nature of benefits packages available (12 per cent) was a factor affecting recruitment and retention. For example, there had been a decline in the proportion of organisations willing to pay "golden hellos" to new recruits (23 per cent, down from 33 per cent last year).
The number willing to make "referral payments" to staff recommending potential new recruits had also fallen (from 82 per cent in 2007 to 73 per cent this year).