Irish jobs market resilient despite impact of pandemic

Most resilient sectors for jobs in 2020 were healthcare, pharma, food and IT while tourism, travel and hospitality remain most vulnerable.

Overall job vacancies are down 23pc year-on-year on pre-Covid levels, according to IrishJobs.ie. However, there are signs of recovery with job vacancies rising 5pc in the fourth quarter of 2020.

According to the latest Jobs Index from e-recruitment platform IrishJobs.ie, in contrast to the March–May lockdown, when economic activity ground to a halt, the employment market was more resilient in the final quarter of the year as businesses showed signs of adapting to the new Covid reality.

“The growth in vacancies in Q4 last year is a particularly encouraging trend, illustrating how many businesses have continued to recruit despite the introduction of additional lockdown restrictions”

According to the data, overall job vacancies increased by 5pc in Q4 2020 compared to Q3, despite the introduction of Level 5 (October/November) and Level 3 (December) public health restrictions.

Sectoral pandemic impact

The most resilient sectors in 2020 include science, pharmaceutical and food (+161pc YoY increase in job vacancies, +34pc QoQ), medical professionals and healthcare (+123pc YoY, +4pc QoQ), IT (+49pc YoY, +19pc QoQ) and construction (+5pc YoY, + 31pc QoQ).

Each of these sectors posted both year-on-year (2019 vs 2020) growth and quarterly (Q3 2020 vs Q4 2020) growth in job vacancy creation, according to the report.

Other sectors posting vacancy growth in Q4, despite experiencing year-on-year declines, include publishing, media and creative arts (+67pc), customer service, call centres and languages (+13pc), HR & recruitment (+8pc), and sales (+4pc).

However, sectors most vulnerable to a tightening of public health restrictions, including the tourism, travel, and airlines (-96pc YoY, -36pc QoQ), hotels and catering (-82pc YoY, -25pc QoQ), and beauty, hair care, leisure and sport sectors (-56pc YoY, -12pc QoQ), continue to bear the brunt of the Covid-19 downturn.

The index also shows a sharp demand for remote working opportunities, with a 53pc increase in people searching for work-from-home roles from January 2020 to December 2020. 

In correlation, the number of jobs that offer working-from-home as a location, has increased by 1754pc compared to this time last year, with a quarterly increase of 50pc (Q3 2020 vs Q4 2020).

Remote working revolution

“When we look at our latest IrishJobs.ie Jobs Index, what becomes apparent is the sheer resilience of Irish businesses who have adapted and adjusted quickly to the new Covid reality,” explained Orla Moran, general manager of IrishJobs.ie.

“Unlike the March-May lockdown, when the employment market experienced a sharp decline, job vacancies began to rise towards the latter half of the year. The growth in vacancies in Q4 last year is a particularly encouraging trend, illustrating how many businesses have continued to recruit despite the introduction of additional lockdown restrictions.

“However, what we are experiencing is a two-speed job market, whereby the professional services and exporting multinational sectors mostly shrug off the effects of the pandemic but service-oriented sectors, like hotels, beauty, and travel, whose employees and customers are required to be physically present, bear the brunt of the economic downturn.”

Moran said that as we continue to navigate through the pandemic in coming months, Government must factor this potentially unequal recovery into its economic planning providing sufficient support measures for those directly impacted by prolonged closures and restrictions.

“Our data analysis from Summer 2020 show that once restrictions are lifted, hiring swiftly resumes.  While there is certainly room to proceed with optimism in the months ahead, we must ensure this is balanced with a degree of caution as the reopening of the economy is largely dependent on the efficient, effective and speedy rollout of the vaccination programme.”

“What is particularly thought provoking is to see the changes to how we work reflected in our data. In the latest index, we have tracked the notable increase in working-from-home vacancies that have grown steadily in line with the increased demand for remote working.

“Working from home has been a long-discussed practice in Ireland, and the Covid pandemic has certainly accelerated its uptake. However, while the introduction of remote working may be an obvious choice for most employers in the current environment, it must also be a longer-term consideration when managing the return to the workplace.

“The demand for working-from-home opportunities is continually growing amongst career seekers and following the Government’s recent announcement on the proposed National Remote Working Strategy which gives employees the right to request remote working, this is something that all employers will be confronted with once workplaces are able to reopen.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 21 January 2021