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Recovery in NI construction sector short-lived, claims industry boss

By Margaret Canning

Published 29/09/2016

John Armstrong, head of the Construction Employers Federation
John Armstrong, head of the Construction Employers Federation

A recovery in construction jobs in the year to September 2015 may have been short-lived with the sector experiencing another squeeze, it's been claimed.

According to the annual business register and employment survey from the Department for the Economy, building firms recruited another 1,425 workers in the year to September 2015.

Overall, there were 728,932 jobs in Northern Ireland in September last year, the survey said - up 1.1% on the year before.

And despite high-profile job loss announcements at manufacturers like tobacco giant JTI Gallaher and tyre manufacturer Michelin, there were another 3,162 manufacturing jobs added to the sector during the year.

But the survey - which comes out every two years - said the biggest growth was in services jobs - a sector embracing everything from restaurants to office jobs, which added 3,830 new jobs over the year.

John Armstrong, head of industry group the Construction Employers Federation (CEF), said the growth in jobs in the year to September 2015 reflected a time when the industry had finally begun to pick up from the recession.

It was the hardest-hit part of the economy here, with activity falling by around 40% at its nadir.

But in the last year, he said there had been a fall in jobs of around 300 to 30,110 - a figure contained in this month's labour market report.

"It is clear from this that there has been no jobs-rich recovery in the local construction industry," Mr Armstrong said.

The business register and employment survey showed that manufacturing also added 3,162 new jobs over the year. Jobs in manufacturing were concentrated in Mid-Ulster, which had 11,000 manufacturing posts, while there were 8,000 in Belfast and 7,000 in Mid and East Antrim.

Writing in Business Telegraph this week, economist Neil Gibson of the Ulster University Northern Ireland economic policy centre said the growth in manufacturing jobs had been "remarkable" and reflected strength in food processing and a rebound in the materials sector.

Employment Minister Simon Hamilton welcomed the employment figures yesterday.

"I have been encouraged by the continuing signs of improvement in economic conditions in Northern Ireland.

"I welcome this latest increase in employee jobs, especially as this increase has been driven by growth in private sector employee jobs in services, manufacturing and construction."

Belfast Telegraph

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