James Wakefield Cobalt It is the middle of 2016. The oil price, having dropped to within a few cents of $30 per barrel in the middle of January, has recovered to within a few cents of $50 per barrel. Global markets, having kicked off the year with the worst start in history and dropped to a 3 year low in March, have started to show signs of a sustained recovery.

‘Brexit’, whilst still very much a possibility, has been priced into markets already and the world appears to have realised that, whilst growth in China is slower, there is still plenty of growth to be had. Here in the MENA region budgets have been adjusted, projects delayed, investment curtailed and people laid off. However, Cobalt has seen real evidence of a bounce in terms of recruitment activity during Quarter 2. The big question is whether that bounce can survive the summer.

The summer will be long and hot. It is always the latter but, with Ramadan creeping ever forwards, there are fears that it could be longer this year. Until recently, these fears were not helped by the fact that, in a cautious market, employers across all sectors seemed to be looking for excuses not to hire.

The good news is that Cobalt, along with several of our more established competitors, have recorded higher new job numbers week on week throughout Quarter 2 and, perhaps more importantly, seen a range of clients make many of those hiring decisions that they were avoiding in Quarter 1. Now, this could just be the “let’s get it done before the summer” affect but it is starting to feel like something a little more sustainable, at least outside of the Oil & Gas Sector.

In Cobalt’s core areas of focus, there continues to be growth in a broad variety of pockets. Within property, construction & engineering the demand for high quality facilities management talent continues to rise. Within banking, the demand for the very best financial technology and compliance expertise is on the increase as those two functions grow. On the buy-side firms are increasingly seeking good portfolio managers and, where they are not sovereign-backed, refinancing and restructuring specialists.

Perhaps most encouraging is the continuing drive, across much of the MENA region, to improve and upskill existing functions such as finance, HR, procurement, legal and administration. No matter the fear of a more sustained economic slump, Cobalt has continued to work with clients that recognise the need to recruit to improve the quality of their organisations.

The proof is always in the pudding and the pudding in this instance will be what the September version of this market update. However, Cobalt has seen enough positive signs to be heading towards July with far more optimism than was to be had in January. This does not mean that all is rosy, but it does mean that from things are rather more stable and less negative than the more negative rumours that are flying about might suggest.

Article written by James Wakefield, Managing Director at Cobalt.

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