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Recruitment firm Hays expands but sees hit from lack of Executive

By John Mulgrew

A recruitment firm in Northern Ireland says it is expanding its workforce here once again, after posting a 14% surge in business. But Hays says jobs in the public sector have fallen by 15% in the last year, due to cuts and the lack of an Executive meaning that departmental budgets cannot be nailed down.

Hays, which is a global firm with operations in Northern Ireland, said it had grown for the seventh year in a row.

Its latest results show job registration levels are up across construction, engineering, technology and finance.

It now employs 68, but managing director John Moore says the company is adding 10 new staff across the three offices. Hays has operations in Belfast, Londonderry and Portadown.

"Our Northern Ireland results mirror those in the Republic, both in comfortable, double-digit growth", Mr Moore said.

"What is encouraging, it's a very balanced picture. Technology, accountancy, construction, engineering and professional services are all up.

"We are seeing extended contracts coming through ... mostly from the private sector."

But while the private sector jobs market appears to be thriving, public sector recruitment has taken a huge hit.

Mr Moore said there is "greater uncertainty within the public sector", due to cuts and a lack of an agreed Budget. Public sector work represents around 35% of Hays' business.

"I would say it has gone back by about 15%. It's a combination of public sector cuts, uncertainty around EU funding, and the uncertainty around Brexit.

"The cuts, and the lack of a Stormont Executive, means budgets are not signed off, or only partial budgets available."

Looking ahead to the company's overall performance this year, Mr Moore said: "I think it is going to be very strong.

"We have sounded out our customers and they are saying there is a bullishness over the next three years. For us, it's about getting qualified professionals back to Northern Ireland, as well as working with Invest NI to attract new firms to Northern Ireland."

Meanwhile, infrastructure work in Londonderry has improved business confidence and job levels in the north west. Globally, Hays has 10,000 staff in 250 offices in 33 countries.

"We have also added new people to our team and will continue to invest in headcount, which reflects the success that we've had and the ongoing opportunities that we are expecting," Mr Moore said.

"Our performance mirrors a significantly improving regional economy, particularly in the private sector, where clients remain positive about their recruitment plans.

"However, two big issues that we are facing are the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont and of course this is especially compounded with the uncertainties that Brexit may hold for our regional economy."

Across the company, the firm saw fees rising to more than £950m for the year ending June 30. Meanwhile, operating profit rose 17% to £211.5m "driven by international profit growth and exchange rate gains".

Alistair Cox, chief executive, said: "This has been a milestone year for the group. Our international businesses delivered record levels of fees and profit which, together with exchange rate gains, drove overall group operating profit to over £200m for the first time since 2008."

Belfast Telegraph

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