19/10/2021

Post-Lockdown Recruitment Boom Continuing

A post-lockdown recruitment boom is continuing with a wide range of well paid, skilled roles on offer according to the latest 'NI Jobs Report with Ulster Bank'.

The report examines the latest recruitment trends and reveals many sectors are listing record numbers of vacancies.

Data indicates that 24 of the 31 employment categories on NIJobs.com increased the number of job listings in Q3 relative to the previous quarter. Just under half of all the employment categories recorded their highest number of vacancies to date in the third quarter. These included: Nursing, Healthcare and Medical; IT; Hospitality; Retailing, Wholesaling & Purchasing and Accountancy & Finance. These were the top five employment categories and together account for over 40% of all jobs advertised.

Sam McIlveen, General Manager at NIJobs.com believes there's never been a better time to consider career options: "There are many well paid, skilled roles available on the market, while that offers tremendous opportunities for jobseekers it creates a challenging recruitment environment for businesses. The competition for talent is immense right now.

"Our data shows that applications have actually increased compared to this time last year so people are on the move but the volume of jobs available means they can pick and choose. The end of furlough should bring more applicants forward for roles, but the ongoing skills shortages and experience required to meet current demand is proving difficult for employers.

"Looking ahead, it's an opportune time to future proof and ensure employers attract and retain talent for current roles. Those sectors that were decimated in the height of the pandemic such as retail and hospitality are now fast approaching their busiest time of the year with the Christmas trading period. In fact, we are already advertising Christmas roles on our platform for leading retailers such as Argento. The recently launched high street voucher scheme will be a welcome boost for many local businesses as they seek to claw back the revenue lost over the last 19 months.

"Improving the candidate experience during the interview process could help alleviate some of the challenges around filling roles. Employers can miss out on talented people because of a long, drawn-out process so reducing the number of face-to-face interviews and introducing more video calling options is one solution.

"Some sectors are fighting for the same candidates but it's worth noting that many of the skills they bring are transferable to other roles. Business models and office environments are changing as is the customer experience, especially in sectors such as retail. Customers now expect a unique store experience and a strong online offering. Businesses can plan for the future now and hire staff who can be upskilled to work across a variety of disciplines from customer service to digital roles."

The quarterly data and job listings from NIJobs.com are viewed as a leading indicator of labour market performance, giving insight into recruitment trends, economic environment and the types of roles jobseekers are searching for online.
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Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank's Chief Economist, added: "Northern Ireland's labour market has truly weathered its biggest economic storm to date. Eighteen months ago, job losses and a surge in unemployment (above 10%) were viewed as a 'slam dunk' outcome. Fortunately, unprecedented actions by the UK government, not least the introduction of the Job Retention Scheme, prevented a pandemic turning into an economic depression. The Job Retention Scheme served the economy well by retaining jobs during the lockdowns and throughout the worst stages of the pandemic. Following a vaccine rollout and a lifting of restrictions, the so-called furlough scheme expired on 30 September. A modest rise in unemployment is now expected rather than the spike anticipated over a year ago.

"For those individuals still on furlough last month, the prospects of finding a job, albeit not necessarily the exact or ideal job sought, couldn't be better. In 2020, labour market concerns focussed on the potential for massive job losses. Fast forward to autumn 2021 and the unemployment rate, currently 4.1%, isn't and won't be a cause for concern. A lack of jobs isn't the problem. A shortage of staff to fill the growing list of vacancies is.

"Vacancies in the UK have hit a 20 year high of 1.1 million. It is a similar picture in Northern Ireland too with job vacancies hitting a fresh record high in the third quarter. This highlights that the Spring hiring spree has continued throughout the summer with sectors such as hospitality on a major recruitment drive to deal with the staycation boom. According to the latest NIJobs.com Jobs Report advertised vacancies posted their fifth consecutive quarterly rise in Q3 with a 14% q/q rise. Demand for labour in Q3 is almost six times the level reported during Q2 2020's lockdown low. Looking at the year-to-date (January – September), job listings have increased by over 50% relative to the corresponding period in 2019 which pre-dates the pandemic.

"The performance of some categories are worth noting. Nursing, Healthcare & Medical remains the top category for recruitment and accounted for almost 1 in 5 of all jobs listed on the NIJobs.com platform. After Nursing, Healthcare & Medical; Hospitality was the most active employment category accounting for almost 1 in 8 of all vacancies and one-third of the quarterly increase in listings in the third quarter. Hospitality vacancies jumped by 44% in Q3 which is 2.5 times the number listed in Q3 2019. This highlights the churn that the industry has experienced with many workers leaving the sector to work elsewhere.

"The ongoing skills shortages have triggered inflation busting pay increases in some areas. Pay has become an even more sensitive issue given the evolving cost-of-living crisis. The majority of workers are likely to see pay fail to keep up with the rising cost of living. This has implications for employers' ability to attract and retain staff in what is a sellers' market.

"Over the last year, the pandemic has caused people to reflect on their careers, lifestyles and work choices. Flexibility rather than overall pay levels became a primary motivating factor, leading to an unprecedented number of people choosing to change jobs worldwide in 2021. Indeed, this has been dubbed the 'Great Resignation'. The cost-of-living crisis provides fresh impetus into financial remuneration considerations associated with work. With incomes squeezed, the demand for more significant pay rises from employers will intensify. For some sectors, such as the Hospitality sector which already faced a bumpy road to recovery, rising wage and energy costs presents a significant challenge. For workers, moving jobs may be their only way to secure a meaningful pay rise in the face of the rising cost of living. As a result, we can expect the recruitment market to remain very active in the months ahead."

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