Belfast Telegraph

Employers to cut staff numbers in next few months

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland employers plan to cut staff numbers over the next three months despite a rapidly improving job market elsewhere in the UK, a new report has revealed.

Eight months on from the UK’s official emergence from recession, companies in the province have reported negative hiring intentions for the third consecutive quarter.

The statistics were announced in an employment outlook survey by recruitment company Manpower.

Simon Edwards, head of driving and logistics at Manpower, said Northern Ireland was yet to return to pre-recession labour market conditions, having been hit hard by extensive job cuts within construction.

The Northern Ireland unemployment rate has now crept up to 6.4% and the jobless rate among young people between the ages of 18 and 24 is nearly 16%.

The number of unemployment benefit claimants here jumped by 11.8% in a year — while the UK-wide figure fell by nearly 7% over the same period.

And it's being predicted that the local jobless total will keep on climbing from its current level of some 57,000 to top the 70,000 mark in the next 18 months, while employment figures in the rest of the UK surge in the opposite direction. Widespread cuts in the public sector — to be detailed in the comprehensive spending review on October 20 — are expected to push up unemployment figures.

Based on responses from over 2,100 UK employers, the Manpower survey shows that in Northern Ireland employers plan to reduce staffing levels over the next three months with a seasonally adjusted net employment outlook of minus four percent — weaker by one percent quarter-over-quarter and by four percent year-over-year.

Northern Ireland also continues to report weaker hiring intentions than the national average, which stands at +1% for the fourth consecutive quarter.

Mr Edwards said: “While this is disappointing for employers and jobseekers, it is not all bad news — there are jobs out there for those willing to be flexible in their requirements.”

Looking at the other regions surveyed, employers in East Anglia report the most positive hiring prospects at +13% where employment prospects have been boosted by increased manufacturing activity, strong performances by hi-tech businesses, and growth in start-up businesses — especially new ventures in professional services and hotels and restaurants.

In contrast, employers in the West Midlands report the least positive hiring intentions at minus nine percent, having first been hit by extensive job cuts within automotive manufacturing.

Mr Edwards added: “For employers, finding jobseekers with the right skills at the right time can sometimes be difficult, and in the UK there are concerns of a talent shortage.

“Even now employers are actively looking for motivated and skilled candidates to join their workforces and help drive future growth. For jobseekers, investing in continued training and up-skilling will help maximise longer term employment prospects as employers remain focussed on appointing those individuals with the right skills, at the right time.

“The importance of this, teamed with gaining on-the-job experience in temporary, part-time or unpaid roles should not be underestimated.”

Belfast Telegraph