Sighs of relief as Northern Ireland jobs market looks positive
The jobs market in Northern Ireland is looking more positive for the first three months of 2014 than it has for more than a year, according to a new survey by recruitment company Manpower.
Its Northern Ireland Employment Outlook, which is used as an economic indicator by the Bank of England, found more employers expect to take on new staff than reduce the size of their workforce.
At +5%, it brings the outlook for the labour market here in line with that for the rest of the UK and well ahead of previous powerhouse London which recorded a result of just +1%, having peaked at 11% only six months ago.
"We're reassured to see that the jobs market has stabilised in Northern Ireland," Amanda White, operations manager at Manpower UK, said. "We're finally back up at the national average and there are a number of positive signs emerging, not least the growth in tourism in Belfast.
"The city was recently listed as one of the top ten cities to live in and we're certainly seeing its popularity reflected in companies' investment in the area and the knock-on effect for jobs."
The positive outlook is also taking hold in the the north west, Ms White said, but employers' confidence isn't replicated by candidates.
"There is still some reluctance to take the leap and move to a new role," she said. "We're also seeing some significant skills gaps in the region – take welders, for example, which are in such short supply that we have employers bringing talent in from elsewhere in the UK."
The more positive survey does, however, reflect recent labour market data for Northern Ireland.
According to the Department of Employment and Learning's Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland stands at 7.3%, below the UK average of 7.6%.
The claimant count here has also been falling, down 600 in October to 61,000 and even economic inactivity, a bugbear of the Northern Ireland economy, has decreased, down by 9,000 in the three months to September.
Meanwhile, for the whole of the UK, the Manpower survey said the jobs market "has the appearance of a swan with an apparent calm on the surface that belies a far more turbulent jobs market below the waterline".
It pointed to optimism in the likes of manufacturing.