A new report by the ESRI has found that there was a significant decrease in economy-wide job vacancies last month.

The downturn was driven particularly by a decline in the construction sector, which reported its lowest vacancy rate in over five years.

Construction employers also predicted a 10% decline in employment levels in the sector.

Overall, 12% of firms in the private sector reported vacancies in August this year, compared to 17% for July.

Today's report finds that employers in the construction sector are taking a particularly pessimistic view when it comes to expected job vacancies in the future.

Reported vacancies there fell by five percentage points to 5%, which is the lowest the vacancy rate has been since the survey began in May 2002.

There was also an eight-point decline in reported vacancies in the services sector, which included IT, to 17%.

Reported vacancies in the industry sector increased by four percentage points to 17%, while in retail the figure remains unchanged at 2%.

Employers are also less optimistic about their future employment needs. Expectations for future employment in all sectors fell slightly, and more employers expected a fall in employment over the coming months than an increase.

Quantity surveyors, managers, accountants, catering personnel and operatives were reported to be among the most difficult vacancies for employers to fill.