Business

Signs Northern Ireland labour market is softening, new jobs report suggests

NIJobs.com said advertised vacancies fell by six per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019
Ryan McAleer

NORTHERN Ireland’s record-breaking labour market is showing signs of softening, new data from NIJobs.com suggests.

Despite unemployment hitting a record low of 2.3 per cent between July and September, the recruitment firm revealed that advertised vacancies fell by six per cent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2019.

It marked the third consecutive quarter of decline documented by the report, which is produced in conjunction with Ulster Bank.

The bank’s chief economist Richard Ramsey said that despite 21 consecutive quarters of employment growth within the north’s private sector, business conditions deteriorated markedly in the second half of 2019.

“This has yet to filter through to the official statistics in a meaningful way. However, there have been a number of firms closing at the turn of the year."

The NIJobs report revealed a mixed picture for the economy, with 17 of 32 employment categories reporting quarterly declines, while 11 categories saw a rise in job listings.

The categories posting two-year lows included ‘accountancy and finance’; ‘production, manufacturing and materials’; ‘retailing, wholesaling and purchasing’; and IT.

However despite the IT sector recording its fourth successive quarterly fall in the number of job listings, the sector still accounts for more vacancies than any other.

“While just one-in-50 of all NI jobs are in IT the sector still accounts for one-in-10 of all advertised vacancies,” said Richard Ramsey.

The ‘social, charity and not for profit’ sector has also seen listings slump to a three-year low.

The most significant increases in the final three months of 2019 were reported within the nursing, healthcare and medical category.

“Skills shortages within the health service have been well documented,” said the economist. “The forthcoming boost to NHS spending, particularly in relation to nursing, could well see a pick-up in vacancies this year.

“Looking ahead the labour market is set to weaken in coming quarters given the marked deterioration in business conditions that occurred in the second half of 2019.

“The data points to a further softening in the labour market in the months ahead. While some clarity on Brexit has emerged in recent months uncertainty will continue to dampen investment plans and staffing levels for some time yet.”

Meanwhile, Sam McIlveen of NIJobs.com said salary transparency is becoming an increasing issue for jobseekers. She said around 80 per cent of businesses in the north currently advertise positions without information on pay.

The recruitment firm’s report found that 47 per cent of jobseekers said salary is essential when it comes to job descriptions and 62 per cent of jobseekers say a higher salary is a key motivator for moving roles.

“While salary clarity isn’t the only consideration for candidates, it is a significant one and can make the difference between someone deciding to engage with a job or not,” she said.

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