Online job postings in the UAE fell sharply last month despite a slew of positive economic data and growing consumer confidence.

Job postings fell 30 per cent compared with July 2012 as recruitment experts speculate that the Government’s Emiratisation programme is starting to affect the way employers hire staff.

According to the employment website, which puts together a monthly gauge of tens of thousands of online job postings, the index for the UAE fell from 127 points in July 2012 to just 89 a year later – the greatest decline in all countries measured in the Middle East.

The 30 per cent decline in July follows a 31 per cent year-on-year decline in June and a 19 per cent decline registered in May.

The automotive sector was the industry most affected with numbers down by 27 per cent on the previous year in the UAE, followed by hospitality where new job advertisements were down 19 per cent, and oil and gas opportunities, which fell 16 per cent.

Customer service jobs registered the greatest falls by occupation, with job advert numbers down 49 per cent compared with a year ago. Advertisements for logistics and supply chain buyers were down 37 per cent and adverts for software and telecoms engineers fell 27 per cent.

No industries registered growth in the UAE last month although numbers within the banking and financial services and the healthcare sectors remained flat.

Health care was the only career that registered an increase in the number of job postings in the UAE in July, with a 2 per cent increase on last year.

Sanjay Modi, the managing director of Monster, put the gloomy figures down to the global economic slump.

“The decline in annual growth is reflective of the prevailing challenging economic conditions. Keeping this in mind, companies are adopting a cautious approach while hiring which is reflected in the index,” he said.

The Monster index, which gauges online job postings every month based on a review of aggregated career websites and job postings by employers in the region, showed that the total number of jobs advertised in the Middle East as a whole declined 9 per cent.

News of declining job numbers is at odds with other signs pointing towards a generally strengthening economy. The IMF is forecasting GDP growth in the non-oil economy to rise this year to 4.3 per cent, up from 3.8 per cent last year, helping to compensate for slower output in the oil sector. Rising property prices and double-digit growth in car sales reported by many showrooms also suggests improving confidence among consumers and investors.

Economists speculated that the reported falls could be down to the Government’s Emiratisation programme, which requires UAE companies to hire more locals rather than expatriates. With 2013 designated as the Year of Emiratisation, some government-linked firms, which are among the largest overall employers, are putting an extra focus on hiring more locals.