Brexit sends Northern Ireland to the bottom of UK hiring confidence table
Northern Ireland's employers are becoming more cautious when it comes to hiring amid the uncertainty caused by Brexit and falling consumer confidence.
That's the conclusion of workforce experts ManpowerGroup, which conducted a new survey among 2,107 employers.
The study found that Northern Ireland has fallen to the bottom of the UK table of hiring confidence, with manufacturing facing closures and cutbacks.
It also concludes that the lack of clarity over Brexit is not only delaying recruitment, but investment decisions as well.
Used by both the Bank of England and the UK government, Manpower claims its employment outlook survey is the most comprehensive, forward-looking of its kind.
Chris Gray, director at Manpower UK, said: "After over a year of hovering in positive territory, it's disappointing to report that hiring intentions in Northern Ireland have fallen into negative territory this quarter.
"However, given the bigger picture - a gloomy national outlook and ongoing uncertainty about the post-Brexit picture in Northern Ireland - it's no wonder that this is impacting hiring plans.
"Although nationally manufacturing has been a bright spot, hiring intentions in the industry here have been weak, with some big manufacturing companies such as Michelin, JTI Gallaher's and Wrightbus closing down or cutting back."
He said in a region where driving and logistics roles have always played a crucial role, employers need certainty.
"Although we are still seeing a steady stream of hiring in this sector, our clients are telling us that they need a lot more clarity about the future before they can make any real business growth, investment or hiring decisions."
Manpower said the UK-wide outlook of +4% reflected the most downbeat hiring prospects since 2012, with falling confidence in the finance and business services sector largely responsible. It said both those areas were experiencing the lowest confidence for nine years.
ManpowerGroup's managing director James Hick said: "This is the first quarter since 2009 - when Britain was in the depths of the financial crisis - that we've seen business and financial services employers record a negative outlook.
"As the UK is a global centre for financial and professional services, if the sector's shrinking, it's not good news for UK plc. While financial services only employ 3.5% of workers, it generates about 11% of Government tax receipts," he said.
"Technological innovations mean banks are now more automated, and we've already seen branch closures announced by the likes of RBS and Lloyds, which will cause significant job losses."
Outside Northern Ireland, manufacturing did provide some room for optimism. Outlook for the sector increased to +7%, with the weak pound proving good news for many exporters in Great Britain.