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Warning Covid 'could spark 20,000 NI redundancies over next year'


The Northern Ireland economy has been rocked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Northern Ireland economy has been rocked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Economist Dr Esmond Birnie

Economist Dr Esmond Birnie


The Northern Ireland economy has been rocked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Record redundancies this year could double to more than 20,000 in 2021 as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, an economist has warned.

The latest labour market statistics found that 10,720 redundancies were proposed over the last 12 months, with around half of job losses in the manufacturing, wholesale and retail sectors.

Demand in those areas has been badly hit by the pandemic, resulting in a level of redundancies that was nearly double the number for 2019.

The labour statistics also recorded an unemployment rate for August to October of 3.9%, up 1.6 percentage points over the year. The jobless rate among 16 to 24-year-olds was 11.7%.

There was also the first annual fall in the number of employee jobs in Northern Ireland in eight years, reaching 775,020.

That figure includes tens of thousands of roles on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

It was set up to save jobs hit by the crisis, with the Government paying 80% of an employee's normal salary, even though people were not working because of the health crisis.

According to HMRC, which administers the scheme, there were 54,100 jobs in Northern Ireland covered by the scheme at the end of September.

Economist Dr Esmond Birnie, of Ulster University's Business School, said there was a risk that some of those jobs would not be preserved when the scheme expires at the end of March.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended the programme at the end of October in response to tighter coronavirus restrictions affecting the entire UK.

Dr Birnie said that between a fifth and a half of the 54,100 could ultimately face losing their jobs if demand did not return to their sectors of work. That could mean around 25,000 job losses in a worst-case scenario.

"If the currently furloughed are distributed more in sectors, such as hospitality, catering, tourism, aerospace and non-food retail, where sadly it is unlikely a strong recovery will be obvious in the first half of 2021, then the job loss is towards the top end of that range," Dr Birnie explained

More than 3,600 redundancy notifications were made in the last five months, Nisra said.

Companies are required to notify the Department for the Economy if they intend to make 20 or more people redundant.

There were 1,370 redundancies proposed in November and 420 confirmed. However, that was down from 1,240 in October.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, which compiles the labour market report, said the manufacturing and services sectors had lost 2,930 and 2,760 jobs respectively over the year.

In the last quarter, wholesale and retail lost 3,640 jobs, while administrative and support service activities lost 1,430.

However, there was an increase over the quarter of 2,120 jobs in education and 550 roles in accommodation and food service activities.

Mark Dougan, the local director of youth charity The Prince's Trust, said the coronavirus pandemic had hit the employment prospects of young people particularly hard.

"Life is bleak for many young people this winter. The jobs market has been shrinking, particularly in sectors that typically employ young people, and too many are losing all hope for the future," he added.

"Young people are facing double jeopardy in that they're more likely to have lost their job at the start of the pandemic and least likely to have found a new one.

"We must not let the younger generation be robbed of their ambitions.

"Young people need us now more than ever and we know from experience that even the smallest interventions can be a turning point towards a more positive future."


Luc Donaldson

Luc Donaldson

Luc Donaldson

Case study: 'It feels great to be working again after 13 months without a job'

Luc Donaldson (19) is from Tandragee, Co Armagh

I'm 19 now, and I was out of work for 13 months until I joined a programme run by The Prince's Trust.

My mum had been so worried about me, she said she had never seen me at such a low point because I was depressed. My anxiety was so bad I couldn't leave my room. I had bills to pay for my car but had no money coming in, it just kept getting me more and more down. Then the pandemic began and I didn't see how I was ever going to find work.

My friend told me about The Prince's Trust Get Into Retail with Tesco programme, for young people aged 16-30.

It made me anxious just thinking about taking part, but when I was on placement it gave me a new lease of life. The staff are all lovely. Interacting with them and customers has really boosted my confidence. I was delighted to be offered a contract in the Craigavon store. It feels great to be working. If you look at me two months ago and me now I'm a totally different person.

Getting a new job: it's never too late to start afresh

By Mark Bain

Naomh McElhatton, Group Marketing Director with leading recruitment agency Staffline, said it's important to remember that hopefully a job loss during the pandemic is only temporary and the economy will pick up again.

"The first piece of advice is to get registered with a recruitment agency," she said.

"If you have been in your previous job for the last 20 years with very little experience in another sector start to think about your transferable skills and what attributes you bring to the table of your potential new employer.

"Working with an agency, your consultant will help shape and create a compelling CV, advise you on the jobs available and identify opportunities you may not have thought about.

"Being made redundant is one of the most stressful events that can happen in your life," she explained. "It can be a massive blow to confidence and leave you feeling demotivated. However, a key thing to remember is that losing a job to redundancy isn't your fault.

"It is hard to pick yourself up. When you're unemployed, it can be easy to rush into the first job you're offered, but take the time to decide what is that you want as that will help to keep you motivated in your job hunt.

"Redundancy could be the kick you needed to think about a new career. It's never too late to start something new, and don't be put off by how long re-training will take, it's a learning experience in itself. Diving head first into a career change after the blow of being made redundant might feel daunting, but it could open new doors you had not previously considered.

"Never isolate yourself in these circumstances, whilst we appreciate it is challenging to get out and about to network at events, you can take this opportunity to polish up on your LinkedIn profile, join the conversation online. LinkedIn has over one million active discussion groups - there is definitely something for everyone."


Belfast Telegraph