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Outlook brighter yet firms still under no pressure to up wages

Confidence is seeping back into the Northern Ireland economy, according to a new survey carried out by Barclays.

It found over half (55%) of businesses here are more confident about the current state of the economy compared to this time last year. The Barclays Employers Survey 2014 also found that most companies here, around 62%, aren't being pressurised by employees to increase wages in the year ahead.

That compares to the UK as a whole, where nearly two-thirds of firms are planning to increase wages in the coming 12 months.

Adrian Doran, Barclays head of corporate banking in Northern Ireland, said the difference isn't surprising.

"Our recovery is, however, lagging behind the rest of the UK, and as a result it is no surprise that our local employers don't see wage inflation being an issue just yet," he said.

And there doesn't seem to be a big issue when it comes to finding skilled labour. The survey found 77% of businesses here don't struggle to get skilled workers, compared to a UK average of 59%.

"Given that we are at the early stages of coming out of recession, there is clearly capacity within our local economy, and as a result most local firms do not as yet see a shortage of skilled labour as being a major issue.

"However, anecdotal evidence would suggest that despite this, there are some specific sectors in Northern Ireland, most notably the ICT sector, which are starting to see shortages of suitably-skilled employees."

Meanwhile, there is little expectation for an interest rate rise in the coming year.

Almost a third of those surveyed thought it would be in 2015 and 44% of the largest companies surveyed thought it would be 2016 or later.

"While no-one knows when interest rates will rise, businesses should not be complacent. It would be prudent for firms to ensure they have sufficient cash flow to absorb interest rate increases when they come."

The Barclays Employers Survey was undertaken in November-December 2013 by Critical Research which conducted interviews with 684 companies across the UK.

Belfast Telegraph