Northern Ireland top region in UK for Hays recruitment firm
Northern Ireland was the best-performing UK region for recruitment firm Hays in the last six months of 2013, the company has said.
Finance director Paul Venables said net fees had increased by 45% in the region over the period, compared with 20% growth over the same time a year earlier.
The overall UK and Ireland market saw net fee growth of 9%.
Mr Venables said the Northern Ireland market was seeing "quite a strong rebound in professional recruitment".
He said job opportunities were growing in almost all areas, with construction and property, finance and accounting and IT enjoying the strongest growth.
However, there had been a 6% fall in positions filled in the banking sector.
He said the number of IT professionals they had placed had doubled so that it now accounted for 15% of their business. Accountancy and finance accounted for a quarter of its business and construction and property 20%.
Such was the growth that the company's staff numbers in Northern Ireland had grown from 35 to 48, Mr Venables said. He said he was confident that more growth would come. "All sectors are going to grow in the next few years as the last four or five years have been so difficult, and this is the first stage of uplift."
He added: "We have placed more architects in the last six months than over the previous three years.
"There is a big uplift in growth but there has been no investment in skills so experienced people are in demand."
He added: "There is an upbeat mood among SMEs which had let people go in the downturn but now need staff."
He said manufacturing companies were finding that they hadn't updated their processes or increased their engineering skills in the downturn, but now needed to do so.
They were also increasing their sales and marketing spend, he said. In the IT market, there had been a pick-up in demand for programmers and IT infrastructure specialists.
Mr Venables said he believed wage growth would follow. "The minute you get companies focused on retaining their best people and focusing on growth, then salaries follow."
He said wages growth of around 3% in the UK and Ireland could be expected in 2014.
Hays' improved performance comes as latest figures show claimants of jobseekers allowance fell by 600 to 58,700 in January, so that over the year the claimant count had fallen by 6,200. But the separate unemployment rate for October to December 2013 was 7.4% – up 0.1 percentage points over the quarter. The labour force survey also showed that there were 807,000 people in employment from October to December.