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There may be signs of a slowing down in Malaysia's online hiring decline, which has proved to have been sluggish through most of 2016.
According to the latest data from online recruitment platform Monster's Employment Index (MEI), 2016 closed off with a -5 percent year-on-year decline in December.
Detailing the hiring narrative, Monster's Sanjay Modi, who is managing director for APAC and Middle East, said that 2016 for Malaysia kicked off with -28 percent year-over-year decline in overall online hiring activity in January.
Modi said the last 12 months continued to see Malaysia recording a consecutive decline in annual online hiring activity, with its steepest dip in February 2016, at -39 percent year-on-year.
February was also a particularly slow month for the job market, where most sectors saw the steepest annual decline in hiring activity in that time, he continued.
Modi (pic below) said that in the following months, "the pace of decline in e-recruitment fluctuated before finally slowing down in Q4. On average, the country witnessed an overall -15 percent decline in annual online hiring in 2016."
What of 2017?
Looking ahead, he said the "slow hiring intent is likely to roll over" the early months this year. "Overall online recruitment has slowed in Malaysia in recent months and this is likely to remain this way in the first half of 2017."
"Much of this is driven by external factors, such as the global economic uncertainties and the influence of the declining oil industry, as well as the weak ringgit values, which undoubtedly have an effect on the local labour market over time," said Modi.
"But 2017 isn't all doom and gloom," he added. "The latest MEI figures in December and November have shown a slowdown in the pace of decline across the board, which indicates slight positive hiring sentiments."
"This is likely to be true in sectors such as Technology, where the government will be focusing more on this year, putting in place tech-friendly policies and measures to ensure sufficient opportunities in this space. Malaysian businesses are also expecting to increase salary, revenue, export and employment in 2017," Modi said.
"[However], there are no indications of improvement for the Banking and Financial sector in Q1 2017," he said. "2016 has been a slow year for the BFSI sector in terms of growth in employment, where the sector faced 12 consecutive annual declines."
"As of December 2016, the sector witnessed a -12 percent year-on-year decline," said Modi. "The sharpest decline was recorded in February, at -38 percent year-on-year. As per Malaysia's MEI, the average annual decline for the sector in 2016 was -19 percent."
Positive signs for IT?
However, Malaysia's IT sector is likely to see positive growth in Q1, he said. "2016 has been a challenging year for the tech sector, where the market faced decline for nine out of 12 months. The year begun with -25 percent year-on-year decline in January, recorded its steepest decline in February at -49 percent year-on-year, before capping off with 15 percent year-on-year growth in December."
"Overall the sector still saw a -12 percent year-on-year decline in 2016, but the pace of decline has slowed down significantly in Q4," Modi said.
Commenting on other sectors, he said that uncertainty will continue in Malaysia's Marketing sector. "In line with the rest of Malaysia's key sectors, 2016 has also been a slow-paced one when it comes to online hiring in the Marketing sector. The year commenced with -20 percent year-on-year decline in online hiring activity, recording its steepest decline in February at -22 percent year-on-year, and ending with -6 percent year-on-year decline. On average, Malaysia saw -11 percent year-on-year decline in hiring in this sector."
Modi said the data also suggested an improvement in demand for HR professionals in Q1 2017. "When looking specifically at the demand for HR professionals in Malaysia, the year kicked off with -22 percent year-on-year decline in January, followed by the -29 percent year-on-year decline in February - the steepest decline recorded in 2016. On average, the sector saw -12 percent year-on-year decline in 2016."
Launched in May 2015, with data collected since February 2014, the Monster Employment Index (MEI) is a monthly analysis of online job posting activity in Malaysia, based on a real-time review of millions of employer job opportunities from online career outlets nationwide.
The first version of this article appeared on Computerworld Malaysia 6 February 2017.