Have job-hunters fallen out of love with IT?

The IT sector posted the fewest number of job listings since began publishing its market barometer in 2019
The IT sector posted the fewest number of job listings since began publishing its market barometer in 2019

ONCE they were the most sought-after jobs . . . but suddenly demand for IT roles in Northern Ireland is on the decline.

The latest NIJobs labour report in partnership with Ulster Bank showed that recruitment levels across the north remained steady in the third quarter of 2023, though talent challenges persist.

But it revealed that IT recorded the biggest fall in advertised vacancies in numerical terms, with listings falling by 24% quarter-on-quarter.

“Outside of the pandemic, the IT sector posted the fewest number of job listings since this series began at the start of 2019,” Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey noted.

“Indeed IT was one of only four categories to have fewer vacancies than during the corresponding pre-pandemic quarter four years ago, alongside education, security and farming/agriculture.”

The key takeaway from the latest report is that the jobs market remains largely steady but there are challenges around talent and skills for employers trying to recruit.

The hiring platform experienced a modest pick up in employer activity (up 1%) between the second and third quarters of this year. Overall, job listings have remained broadly around the same level throughout 2023.

Just over half of the 39 employment categories posted a quarterly rise in job listings during the third quarter.

Conversely, 17 categories saw a fewer number of job vacancies in Q3 relative to the previous quarter.

And the two sectors that have a large number of roles but are experiencing difficulty filling them are construction and skilled trades.

Sam Dooley, country director of Stepstone Group Ireland with responsibility for NIJobs, says: “Ongoing talent shortages remain a challenge for employers, despite sectors actively recruiting. There are a number of contributing factors to this problem, including post pandemic recovery, demographic changes, and shifting ways of working.

“It’s never been more important to hire and retain talent in the current climate. Upskilling your existing workforce is a good starting point. It’s also worth remembering that employees will want to see more than monetary value placed on their role now.”

Richard Ramsey adds: “Northern Ireland, like economies elsewhere, faces a labour supply crunch. Demographic trends, such as an ageing population, point to an increasing shortfall of available workers.

“Meanwhile, the legacy of Covid and deteriorating health outcomes is shrinking the supply of workers further. Throw in the new ways of working/post-Covid lifestyle choices and employers are experiencing severe shortages in labour.

“Solutions on attracting more migrants from abroad and/or replacing labour with machines (automation) are required sooner rather than later. Attracting migrants is increasingly being hindered by the lack of affordable rental properties.

“The stock of available rental properties has halved since the pandemic with rents soaring. Filling a job vacancy will increasingly be dependent on finding affordable accommodation. The housing and labour supply crunches are becoming more and more intertwined.”