The latest ‘NI Jobs Report with Ulster Bank’ confirms that local recruitment has been revitalised thanks to the easing of Covid restrictions, a successful vaccination programme and, most notably, the reopening of hospitality.
Recruitment will contribute significantly to wider economic recovery with many sectors hiring again. However, the pent up demand for staff is creating a competitive talent market for employers.
Over 60% of NIJobs.com employment categories recorded their highest number of vacancies to date and there have been more jobs advertised in the first six months of 2021 than occurred in the whole of last year.
Categories most affected by lockdown restrictions have witnessed the sharpest rebound as a degree of normality returns in Northern Ireland. Hospitality roles (+1,008%); Retailing, Wholesaling & Purchasing (+268%); and Beauty, Hair Care, Leisure & Sport (+150%) in Q2.
The hospitality sector reported the largest increase in job listings in Q2, catapulting it into the top three sectors with the most available jobs. Nursing, Healthcare & Medical vacancies top the list, followed now by jobs in hospitality, with positions for IT professionals a close third.
Hospitality contributes £1.1bn to the NI economy and, pre-Covid sustained 66,000 jobs. A major casualty during the severest lockdowns but now revitalised, the sector faces fresh challenges to meet renewed consumer demand.
Sam McIlveen, NIJobs.com General Manager, comments on the positive output from Q2: “Hospitality’s importance to the NI economy cannot be understated. Our data reveals that job postings in hospitality surged as bars, restaurants and hotels across NI opened their doors, increasing elevenfold compared to the first three months of this year. In May, applications for jobs in hospitality increased eightfold compared to the previous year.
“This demand for staff has put immense pressure on businesses and they are battling a number of factors to fill roles including skills shortages, staff retention and general misconceptions associated with the industry-such as low pay and being viewed as a stop-gap or short-term career option.
“It’s worth bearing in mind that what hospitality is currently experiencing is unprecedented in recruitment. An entire industry has never started from such a low base to hire the same talent at the same time. Also, as a result of Covid and Brexit, many skilled and experienced workers left the industry to seek out new employment while others, from outside the UK, decided to return home, leaving gaps that are proving challenging to overcome.
“In recognition of this changed talent market, many recruiters may need to adjust their hiring timelines as well as develop long-term training and development opportunities within the sector alongside competitive salaries to attract and retain future employees. A career in hospitality can often offer excellent benefits alongside personal development prospects.
“Creating a highly skilled attractive hospitality sector is a key part of Tourism NI’s Recovery Action Plan, which aims to focus on enhancing the skills of the workforce. The proposed JobStart Programme is a welcome addition to support and encourage those who want to invest in the future of their staff and business. It will be key for these businesses to become more attractive to demonstrate the unique benefits the Hospitality sector offers.”
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.
Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s Chief Economist believes Northern Ireland’s economic recovery has moved up a few gears in the second quarter of 2021: “The Spring surge in hiring has been given an additional boost from the easing of restrictions in Q2, such as the reopening of the hospitality industry and the rapid rollout of the COVID19 vaccine. This is in sharp contrast to the corresponding period last year when the economy was under its most severe lockdown restrictions.
“Fast forward twelve months and the recruitment taps have been turned on full blast. Furlough remains a key distortion within the local labour market. As of the end of May, there were almost 59,000 people in Northern Ireland still availing of this government support. Will these individuals return to their employer? Once the scheme is eventually wound down by the autumn we will get a clearer idea of the scale of the mismatch between the supply and demand for labour.
“27 of the 31 employment categories increased the number of job listings in Q2 relative to the previous quarter. During the three months to June, there was a 57% quarterly increase in job advertisements with five times the number of job listings than occurred in Q2 2020.
“In terms of the total number of vacancies, Hospitality has been catapulted from 20th to 2nd in one quarter and knocks IT into third spot. 1 in 4 of the increase in the overall job listings during the latest quarter was accounted for by Hospitality with 1 in 9 of all job listings on the NIJobs.com platform falling within the sector. The number of job vacancies in Q2 2021 for the Hospitality sector was 36 times the number recorded in Q2 last year.
“It is encouraging to see the scale of the demand for roles across a broad range of sectors. The challenge, however, will be filling these roles. Skills shortages are prevalent across the length and breadth of the economy. Prior to Brexit, the EU was a key source of labour that plugged skills shortages in a variety of occupations and sectors. But UK firms can no longer tap this resource in the way they once did. Skills shortages are likely to be accompanied by significant pay rises. This is just one of many costs for business that are rising at much faster rates than they would like.
“2020 was a profound year for the economy at a global, national and local level. 2021 is also set to be an unusual year for the recruitment market too. Economies around the world are seeing record vacancies. This is as much to do with churn than simply employment growth and business expansion. We have entered a period that has been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. As return-to-work plans gather steam, more and more workers are rethinking their jobs and lives after COVID. The Great Migration to remote work during the pandemic has also had a profound impact on when and where people want to work. Instead of heading back to the office people may simply quit their jobs instead.
“During the lockdowns and in furlough people hunkered down. Now with the recovery gathering, there is pent-up demand for people who want to change careers or jobs altogether. Research from Microsoft suggests over 40% of the global workforce are set to resign at some point this year. Just under 40% of UK and Irish workers say they will do the same this year or when the economy is stronger. This is around double what it would typically be. The next 12 months are likely to see an unusually high level of staff turnover as firms and individuals adapt to the Post-COVID world. We have already started to see this in the latest NIJobs.com Jobs Report.”