Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland bottom of job creation league

By Jamie Stinson

Just a third of Northern Ireland businesses will increase staff numbers in 2015, leaving the region trailing behind the rest of the UK.

It came out bottom among regions planning to expand their workforce over the next 12 months - with 36% of companies hoping to add jobs in 2015.

In contrast, 50% of businesses in Scotland believed they will see an increase in their workforce next year, the highest of all the UK regions, according to the CBI Accenture employment trends survey.

Nigel Smyth, director of CBI Northern Ireland, said a dependency on the public sector and the lingering effects of the property boom were some of the reasons behind the province's weaker growth in comparison to the rest of the UK.

"Growth is lagging behind the rest of the UK and is expected to lag in 2015 due to our over-dependence on the public sector - and constraints on public expenditure will continue into 2015 and beyond," he said.

"Secondly the economy is still suffering the overhang from the property boom and bust."

Jobs in Northern Ireland are forecast to rise by 0.5% in 2015, compared to 1.5% in the UK, according to Danske Bank.

Angela McGowan, chief economist at Danske Bank, said the forecast slower growth was down to a number of reasons.

"The (Northern Ireland) economy has a proportionally smaller private sector and micro businesses tend to dominate the economic landscape.

"Also, job creation tends to be heavily influenced by external trade, innovation levels as well as R&D levels - unfortunately the local economy under-performs in all of these indicators when compared to the UK as a whole."

For the Northern Ireland economy to escape its reliance on the public sector it must look to invest in other areas, Mr Smyth said.

"We must put every effort into developing a more sustainable and balanced economy, which will require more investment in science, innovation, skills and infrastructure, while encouraging a more enterprising and entrepreneurial culture."

The IT sector and professional business services are showing particularly strong growth in Northern Ireland, while the construction sector continues to struggle behind the rest of the UK, Mr Smyth added.

The CBI report found that two-thirds of businesses (63%) feel the biggest workforce threat to UK competitiveness is low levels of skills, closely followed by the "burden of employment regulation".

Some 37% of UK businesses believe the their workforce will remain the same in 12 months time, with no increase in staff.

A further 12% feel their workforce will be smaller by the end of next year.

The CBI also found the UK economy had its slowest growth since July 2013 in the three months to December, blaming a sharp fall in business and professional services growth.

Belfast Telegraph