Belfast Telegraph

Jobcentre posts plummet

Nearly 25,000 fewer vacancies displayed than in 2008/2009

By Margaret Canning

The number of vacancies displayed in Northern Ireland's jobcentres have slumped by one third over the last two years, government statistics show.

There were 49,079 posts in jobcentres in the latest financial year, compared to 54,385 the year earlier and 73,185 two years earlier.

Armagh was the area suffering the biggest fall, from 88.3 per 1,000 people in 2008/09 to 22.1 in 2010/11.

The Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) presented the figures in a statistical bulletin yesterday.

DEL said the figures indicated "a substantial decline" in jobcentre vacancies in the years while adding that the rate of decline had slowed down.

Jobs were increasingly scarce in most sectors - but there was growth in financial and insurance and the information and communication sector, including IT and film production, where posts were up by nearly one fifth.

However, jobs in administration and support services were down by more than 50% while vacancies across retail and car and motorbike repairs were down by 47%.

DEL said that declines of 13% in construction and 8% in manufacturing were "relatively modest".

Economist John Simpson said the figures were "consistent with a continuing recession".

But he added: "Government figures are not very reliable because only a very small number of private sector jobs get notified to job centres.

"They show us the direction of the flow but not the strength of it."

Belfast Telegraph sister company website Jobfinder is currently advertising 5,665 vacancies.

There are 60,400 currently claiming jobseekers' allowance.

Ian Graham, head of IT industry body Momentum, said the rising number of vacancies in information and communication was a reminder that not enough IT graduates were emerging from Northern Ireland's two universities to meet the demand for them.

He said Government should do more to attract students to IT courses at universities.

"We should have a commitment to get skills in place because long-term we will benefit hugely."

News of the dramatic fall in vacancies came after one businessman told the Belfast Telegraph of his difficulties recruiting a suitable person for a receptionist's job at his company.

He had to reject 200 out of 267 CVs because of spelling mistakes, while some attending interview for the client-facing role had tattoos, piercings and "multi-coloured hair".

Patricia Rooney, an employment lawyer at Tughans, said: "If you are looking at rejecting someone on the basis of hair colour, tattoos or piercings, it would not automatically be discriminatory to refuse them on those grounds."

But she said a distinction could be drawn between types of jobs and environments in which tattoos may not be unwelcome.

Overall, interviewers should remember "the only thing you are measuring is suitability for the job".

But the lawyer said that the legal implications of turning down a candidate with a tattoo could depend on what it depicted.

"If someone has tattoos which depict which section of the community they are from, it could be indirectly discriminating against them on the grounds of religion."