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Jobs firm predicts ‘slow recovery’ in the market

A Northern Ireland recruitment company has predicted a slow recovery in the market after a bruising time during the recession.

The Northern Ireland Salary Survey by Abacus Professional Recruitment said: “The market will recover and confidence will rise once again, albeit slowly.

“The level of competition for key talent is still relatively substantial at the moment and this will only enhance considerably with market recovery.”

The company said it had published the survey as a “health check” for the key sectors for which it recruits staff.

Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate rose to 7% from March to May though output from the production and services sectors rose by 1.5% and 1.3% respectively. Nonetheless, the claimant count rose by 600 in June to 56,100.

The company said the recession had transformed corporate recruitment habits.

“Interest in permanent recruitment dropped significantly unless the role was business critical or indeed if candidates of a high calibre were able to introduce new business.

“The mood for contract or temporary recruitment has increased as a means of minimising employment commitment.”

Such changes took a grave toll on individuals.

“Thousands have been subject to unexpected redundancies, causing great financial pressure on families as personal and professional career plans have been derailed substantially... the impact on individuals has been widespread with many suffering from lengthy periods of unemployment, a significant void in career-focused employment opportunities and indeed, widespread competition when vacancies arise due to higher levels of availability.”

But Abacus said the latter half of 2009 “experienced slight optimism and levels of activity within the permanent market started to return”.

In the meantime, competition for places is “fierce” with firms spending more time on recruitment due to the volume of applications.

The recession could be distinguished by the “unprecedented” redundancies in professions like accountancy and law, despite the view of those professions as recession-proof.

Accountants were faced with pay freezes and cost-saving measures, particularly those in construction, engineering and manufacturing.

Some equilibrium had returned, however.

“The 12-18 months ahead will continue to be challenging although a more positive outlook from both employers and employees is recognised.”

Information technology had shown the clearest signs of thriving in the “light, post recession recovery”.

Law had undergone a “substantial contraction” emphasising the dependency on conveyancing, particularly in small to medium firms.

There were widespread pay freezes, as well as other costcutting measures.

A “substantial and detrimental” impact was felt in the apprenticed and newly qualified sector. Elsewhere, there was growing competition for ‘in-house’ and public sector roles.