Friday 24 May 2019

Job vacancies dip in first quarter as firms suffer from Brexit jitters

Jobs blow: Co Cork saw vacancies drop by 10pc year-on-year, in contrast to the rises seen in the Dublin market
Jobs blow: Co Cork saw vacancies drop by 10pc year-on-year, in contrast to the rises seen in the Dublin market
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The number of job vacancies dropped 1pc in the first quarter of the year as employers fretted about the potential impact of Brexit, according to new figures.

But despite the year-on-year decline, overall vacancies rose by 7pc in the first quarter of the year compared to the final three months of 2018.

And the latest survey published by Irishjobs.ie also shows that hotel and catering vacancies soared 13pc quarter-on-quarter, and by 9pc year-on-year.

"After Ireland's best-ever year for overseas visitor numbers, tourism remains one of Ireland's strongest performing sectors," said Orla Moran, general manager of Irishjobs.ie.

She said the increase in vacancies in the sector make for "encouraging reading" after the special 9pc Vat rate introduced during the downturn reverted to 13pc as a result of the last Budget.

Restaurants and hotels had warned the increase would cause huge damage to their businesses, and had credited the reduced Vat rate with having created tens of thousands of jobs in the sector.

Recently, Pat McCann, CEO of Ireland's largest hotel group, Dalata, said the Vat hike had been a "non-event" for the company. However, he said that there were indications that some smaller regional operators may have been hurt by the increase.

Somewhat surprisingly, the construction sector saw a decrease in the total number of available vacancies in the first quarter, when the figure declined 7pc compared to the final three months of 2018, and by 3pc compared to the first quarter of 2018. That's despite continued expansion in the construction sector as homebuilding ramps up and commercial projects continue apace.

The latest construction industry purchasing managers' index from Ulster Bank this week showed that firms in the sector made a strong start to the second quarter of the year.

The construction sector is the fastest-growing segment of the economy.

Ms Moran said that Dublin continues to dominate the jobs market, and that regionally, the picture is "mixed".

In Dublin, job vacancies were up 4pc year-on-year and by 9pc quarter-on-quarter.

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, regional job vacancies were 28pc higher in Co Kerry, up by 26pc in Co Clare, by 24pc in Co Wicklow, and by 24pc in Co Roscommon.

But vacancies in Co Cork tumbled 10pc year-on-year, and were 12pc lower on the same basis in Co Galway.

The economy is also edging towards full employment.

The unemployment rate stood at 5.4pc in April, a 10-year low. Migrant talent will play an increasingly important role in filling job openings.

Recent changes to employment and immigration law aim to plug skills shortage gaps.

New laws introduced last month have made it easier for non-European Economic Area nationals with construction skills to move to Ireland.

The CEO of Ulster Bank, Jane Howard, said last week that the shortage of workers in the economy is a bigger issue than Brexit for many firms.

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