Business booms at recruitment firm Hays but political logjam a worry
Recruitment business Hays increased its sales in Northern Ireland by 14% in the last quarter, but there remains a "cloud" because of the absence of a power-sharing administration at Stormont.
The global giant, which has three offices here, says business across the majority of the professional sectors it deals with is on the rise.
John Moore, Hays' NI managing director, said the last quarter had seen a strong rise in recruitment levels.
Hays employs 65 across its Belfast, Londonderry and Portadown offices.
"The marketplace is buoyant in the medium term, and has been for quite some time," he said.
"The year-on-year growth in Hays in Northern Ireland has outperformed the UK regions.
"Firstly, it's down to a market where niche skills are in very big demand."
Hays deals in a range of professional recruitment for some of Northern Ireland's largest companies and major inward investors.
Its latest major project was working alongside Pearson, one of the largest publishers in the world.
Pearson said it would bring 200 new jobs in Belfast, on top of the 100 it currently employs in the city.
Hays also deals with EY, PwC, Deloitte and KPMG.
"The big four have been building, and they are scaling up considerably in Belfast," Mr Moore said.
The company also does business with some of Northern Ireland and Britain's largest construction firms, which are currently expanding.
"We deal with some of the big firms such as Graham, Gilbert Ash and McLaughlin and Harvey."
He said there was a strong growth in finance, construction and technology.
And he added that the number of permanent positions was also on the rise.
"The number of (permanent positions) is up by 25%. The temporary workforce is stable. We are starting to see contract lengths regularly extended," he revealed.
Hays itself is currently undergoing its own expansion.
"We have 65 staff in Northern Ireland, and are hiring another six people in the next few weeks, and then we will be at 75 before quarter four (this year)," Mr Moore explained.
"We have Belfast, Derry and Portadown. Portadown is interesting, as it has a mixture of global engineering companies like Huhtamaki and Terex, and you have a range of public sector bodies, and some really healthy SMEs."
But the lack of a functioning Executive is casting a "cloud" over business, he added.
"There is speculation about Brexit, and there are big decisions to be made. Until we see how they play out, it could be ominous, or it could be well provided for.
"The lack of devolved government is impacting on job levels in the public sector."
Unemployment in Northern Ireland is at its lowest in almost a decade, but our jobless numbers remain the worst in the UK.
And while the dole queues continue to shorten here, dropping by 300 in March, the employment rate has also dropped, by 0.5% to 68.8%.