The UK economy is set to outstrip pre-recession growth levels this year, but it could falter unless the country embraces immigrant workers to ease a shortage of home-grown talent, according to forecasts out on Monday.
The economy, which is currently growing at about 0.7%, is set to surpass mid-2008 levels of economic growth of about 2.1% by July this year, the Business Trends report by accountants and business advisers BDO said.
Markedly strong optimism and hiring intentions across all sectors of the economy, with UK manufacturers in particular feeling very positive about the future, is set to fuel the predicted growth, BDO said.
But BDO waded into the controversy over immigration in the UK by warning that a skills shortage could worsen unless the country becomes more positive about migrant workers.
BDO Partner Peter Hemington said: "The spectre of a skills shortage is likely to rear its head again, which could become a new drag on UK growth.
"There is increasing evidence that immigrants make a disproportionately positive contribution to our economy.
"It is vital that our political class takes notice of this evidence and starts to embrace immigration as a force for good in generating UK economic success."
BDO said the report showed business output had risen to its highest level since April 2010 in February, driven in particular by manufacturing which topped January's level.
Inflationary pressures on UK businesses also continued to ease in February, although that may be seen as mixed news because falling wages drove the fall.
Experts have said wages need to rise if the UK economy is set to break its dependence on consumer spending and borrowing to fuel growth.
Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce said it expected the economy to top its pre-recession peak in the second quarter of the year - three months earlier than it was anticipating back in December.
The BCC upgraded its GDP growth forecasts from 2.7% to 2.8% in 2014 and from 2.4% to 2.5% for 2015.
It added that it expected the Bank of England to raise interest rates from the current level of 0.5% to 0.75% in the third quarter of next year.
The BCC also pointed to a potential skills shortage, saying it expected youth unemployment to stay at almost three times the national average between this year and 2016.
BCC Director-General John Longworth said: "It's not time to break out the champagne glasses just yet. Major issues remain, such as the unacceptably high level of youth unemployment. We urge Chancellor George Osborne to use this month's Budget wisely by incentivising businesses to hire young people so that the next generation of workers are not left behind."