Report Reveals Some Optimism for NI Job Market

  • Overall jobs are up 24% YoY and 40% QoQ
  • Top performing sectors YoY – Nursing, Healthcare, Security Trades and General Services and General Management
  • Sectors with the most available jobs – Healthcare and IT
  • IT dominates the Top 10 in demand roles
  • Job listings now treble the “lockdown low “of Q2:2020

Businesses in Northern Ireland are planning for post pandemic recovery with talent hiring accelerating according to the latest ‘Job Report’ with Ulster Bank.

The quarterly data and job listings of the e-recruitment platform 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.

Q1 2021 noted a strong QoQ growth rate of 40%,with analysis revealing that listings have more than trebled since Q2 2020’s ‘lockdown low’. Overall, jobs are up 24% YoY with top performing sectors including Nursing, Healthcare, Security Trades and General Services and General Management.  However, some sectors continue to be impacted considerably by lockdown restrictions such as Hospitality -72% YoY, Retail -6% YoY and Social & Not for Profit -33% YoY.

Looking at the year-on-year increases, IT and Nursing, healthcare and medical accounted for almost all the net gain in job listings. These two sectors have benefitted from the health emergency and the hastened move towards working from home and shopping online. data can also reveal that IT tops the list of the most in demand roles with employers. Software Engineer, Software Developer, Magento Developer and Java Developers all dominate the top ten list.

Northern Ireland continues to be an attractive place for IT/Tech companies to invest, even during the pandemic. With a wide range of roles available, high calibre of local talent and Belfast set to be one of the first six UK cities in the 5G rollout, demand and growth is likely to continue.

ESO Solutions, Kofax, Slice, WhiteHat Security, Rapid 7, FinTrU and in the finance sector Citi, Danske Bank, PwC and AllState all regularly recruit for skilled IT professionals.

Sam McIlveen, General Manager at, comments on the latest Report: “Our Q1 data is encouraging and demonstrates that a range of sectors are investing in the workforce. As lockdown restrictions ease further, we will see more confidence in consumer habits, spending and business growth across some areas too which should all create positive outcomes for the jobs market.

“We have a Talentbank resource on our website that allows clients to search for suitable candidates and it’s a strong reflection of in-demand professionals and skills across sectors. It is no surprise that IT is popular given current levels of investment here- it continually places in the top three hiring sectors with most available roles.

“Northern Ireland is very much on the map when it comes IT. In recent years we have seen huge investment from global players and tech start-ups, but we must ensure that we are able to continue to provide the skills and talent to fill these roles as the sector evolves further.

“The pandemic has forced many businesses and employees to think about long-term investment and career plans. As we look ahead, I  believe that companies will be attracted to invest in these skilled roles and in Northern Ireland as it offers a highly skilled workforce, value for money and a better quality of life for employees compared to many other European cities.”

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s Chief Economist, evaluates the latest Job Report: “2020 witnessed the fastest and deepest recession on record. But unlike output, the labour market has not followed the usual recession playbook. Unprecedented employment support has kept unemployment surprisingly low. When the support measures are eventually lifted, unemployment will surge, but nowhere near the levels that was anticipated a year ago.

“2021 has already seen some encouraging signs on the labour market front. For example, there were no proposed redundancies in January and February. Meanwhile the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI for March revealed the first increase in employment levels in 13 months. Given the successful rollout of the vaccine, business optimism has returned to levels not seen since before the pandemic.  As a result, firms are gearing up for the recovery and hiring the right people is a key part of that.

“While the output recovery may have lapsed in Q4 and Q1 2021, the recruitment recovery has continued to build. In fact, the local recruitment market’s ‘V-shaped’ recovery is now complete – at least in terms of the overall job listings. According to, job listings – which are viewed as a leading indicator of labour market performance – posted their third consecutive quarterly in Q1 2021. The latest quarterly increase in job postings (+40% q/q) means listings have more than trebled since Q2 2020’s ‘lockdown low’ when advertised vacancies on the website plunged by 61% q/q. Indeed, the first quarter of 2021 saw more jobs advertised than at any time during the last three years.

“The Spring surge in hiring reflects the pent-up demand for ongoing skills shortages and investment plans that have been put on hold due to the pandemic. The pick-up in recruitment activity was broad based with 19 of the 31 employment categories (including hospitality) listed more employment positions in Q1 than during the previous quarter. Furthermore, nine of the thirty-one employment categories posted their highest number of listings to date in the first quarter. These included: Nursing, Healthcare & Medical; Telecoms; Environmental, Health & Safety; General Management & Consultancy; and Construction, Architecture & Property.

“Not only has the economic recovery been uneven, so too has the hiring recovery. While the pick-up in recruitment activity was broad-based, two-thirds of the quarterly increase was due to just two sectors – Nursing, healthcare, and medical & IT. Indeed, the former accounted for close to half (47%). Looking at the year-on-year increases IT and Nursing, healthcare and medical accounted for almost all of the net gain in job listings. Cybersecurity is more important than ever and dozens of Northern Ireland firms in this field are expanding and hiring. More than one-third of all job listings fall within either IT or Nursing, healthcare & medical, with the latter accounting for 1 in 4 of all posts in Q1 2021.

“Other sectors that reported a significant increase in job listings in Q1 include Sales occupations (+223% q/q); Science, Agriculture, Pharmaceutical & Food (+224% q/q) and Transport, Logistics & warehousing (+160% q/q).

“Not surprisingly, those employment categories most affected by lockdown restrictions are still experiencing very subdued levels of demand. Hospitality saw a 42% q/q rise in listings albeit from historically low levels. Vacancies in this category were 72% lower than Q1 2020 and 85% below Q3 2019’s peak. Back in Q3 & Q4 2019, the Hospitality sector had the most job listings of all 31 employment categories and accounted for almost 1 in 9 of all online vacancies. But in Q1 2021 the hospitality sector accounted for just 1% of all advertised vacancies. Similarly, Social, Charity & Not For Profit was regularly in the top three categories for the most listings in 2018 and 2019. Despite a steady improvement in recent quarters, Social, Charity & Not For Profit listed one-third fewer listings in Q1 2021 than a year ago and around 80% fewer than its Q3 2019 peak.    

“2021 has got off to a very good start as far as the recruitment market is concerned. However, the overall strong performance conceals some very weak activity in areas such as the hospitality sector. But even hospitality is poised for a rebound as and when the lockdown restrictions are progressively eased. “ Top 10 ‘in demand’ roles for Q1 2021

Software Engineer
Software Developer
Quantity Surveyor
Magento Developer
Java Developer
Assistant Accountant
Accounts Assistant
Management Accountant