Staff Shortage Fears Dampen Jobs Recovery Figures

Northern Ireland’s jobs market continued to recover in September, official figures suggests.

The number of people on company payrolls, which is the most timely data, rose by 0.3% over the month to 765,600.

September was the last month of furlough but there was no sign of a big wave of planned redundancies.

Notified redundancies in the month were just 130, compared to 80 in the month before.

Statistics agency Nisra said the figures “continue to show improvements over the short term with increases in the employment rate and payrolled employees over the quarter, and decreases in the claimant count and the number of furloughed employees”.

Other figures which measure the number of hours worked across the economy show that the labour market had not returned to pre-pandemic levels during the summer.

In the quarter covering June to August, the number of hours worked rose by 1.9% compared to the previous quarter but was still 5.6% below hours worked in December to February 2020.

Worker shortage

Meanwhile, many businesses are reporting difficulties finding skilled staff.

Ciaran O’Neill, who owns the Bishop’s Gate Hotel in Londonderry, told BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster programme that it has been a problem for many years.

“We had this difficulty getting people into our sector before Covid, but you throw in a pandemic and Brexit and it is a perfect storm where finding people is difficult.

“When our sector was closed we were on our off-peak season. We’ve now opened and had a bounce back but we are finding skills shortages in areas like chefs and housekeeping.

He said he knew of restaurants that were opening on four day weeks.

“If restauranteurs know that customers are happy to go out four days a week, it’s going to be very difficult for them to reopen again for seven days,” he said.

Mr O’Neill, who also chairs a hospitality and tourism skills group, was asked if unsociable hours and low wages put people off joining the industry.

“In reality our sector is as competitive in salary as retail and other sectors,” he said.

“People go out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and we need people to work those nights. That’s the reality.

“We need to change parents’ perceptions and we need to engage with schools to show tourism and hospitality is a real career.”


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