Belfast Telegraph

Jobs outlook in Northern Ireland good, says survey

By Margaret Canning

Employers in Northern Ireland are largely positive about the jobs market, but have some concerns about skills shortages, according to a survey today.

Manpower's research among 131 employers in Northern Ireland found that their confidence is steady as the final quarter of the year beckons.

The agency measured confidence among employers at 2% - the same as the quarter before - while reporting that a large number of vacancies were for permanent jobs.

However, in keeping with all other economic indicators, the Northern Ireland outlook was well behind the UK average, which was put at 4%. Yet at 4%, the UK outlook was at its gloomiest in three years.

Northern Ireland was also more chipper in its outlook than the North East of England, where the outlook was -2%, the North West, at 0%, and the West Midlands, also 0%.

Amanda White, operations manager at Manpower UK, welcomed the continued relative confidence in the Northern Ireland market.

"Although this still lags the national average, it is reassuring to see that a large proportion of vacancies are for permanent roles.

"The positive jobs outlook reflects an air of confidence among all our clients in Northern Ireland and plenty of new business investment, particularly in and around Belfast."

But she added: "The greatest threat to Northern Ireland's positive momentum could be a professional skills shortage.

"However, some employers in the region have already recognised this and are engaging with universities to nurture relationships with the graduates they are likely to require in the near future.

"This approach has been particularly beneficial to employers requiring language skills."

Her statement came days after it emerged that Ulster University was to close its modern languages school at Coleraine due to budget cuts.

Ms White said Northern Ireland was becoming home to a "flourishing" outsourcing industry, with firms selling call centre capabilities to sectors such as financial services and retail. "These can be short-term campaigns lasting a matter of weeks or longer-term ongoing operations.

"As a result, there is strong demand for candidates with customer service or outbound sales skills and experience. Here in Northern Ireland, we benefit from a readily available pool of candidates."

Manpower said one possible explanation for low optimism among the UK employers was the impact of the National Living Wage, which is set to be £9 per hour for over-25s from 2016.

As a result, six million people will receive a 6% pay rise every year until 2020 - with the Office for Budget Responsibility estimating that the extra costs could result in 60,000 job losses.

James Hick, ManpowerGroup Solutions managing director, said: "We anticipate that some employers may look to mitigate the extra costs by taking on more younger or self-employed workers.

"While on the surface, this could be good news for youth unemployment, it could push a greater proportion of young people into low-skilled jobs."

Belfast Telegraph