Business minister Heather Humphreys has said the strategy to promote jobs in all regions is still working, as new figures showing that the growth in the number of new jobs at Irish-owned firms backed by the Government has slowed despite a booming economy .
The figures from the annual review of Enterprise Ireland — the agency that helps indigenous start-ups to expand and find new markets at home and abroad — show that a record number of 221,895 jobs were backed by firms assisted by Enterprise Ireland last year.
However, the number of job gains among its client companies, at just over 16,970, was down from the previous year. In addition, an increased number of job losses meant that the net new job gains in the year fell to around 4,700 at Enterprise Ireland-assisted firms, marking a sharp slowdown.
Minister Humphreys said the slowdown in net job gains reflected the effects of Brexit as well as the challenges faced by SMEs in hiring skilled staff, as the economy faced the prospect of full employment.
The figures from the annual review also showed that 66% of all the new jobs were created outside Dublin and all regions, with the exception of the Midlands, posted jobs gains.
Jobs created in the South and Mid West regions rose by 2% in 2019 — but only in line with the rate of jobs growth in Dublin — and rose 3% in the South East.
By county, Cork and Limerick posted new-jobs growth rates of 2%, new jobs in Tipperary rose 3%, and while Clare posted growth of 4%, but Waterford and Kerry both saw the number of their Enterprise Ireland-linked new-jobs growth fall by 1%.
Minister Humphreys told reporters that since 2012, there has been a continuous increase in jobs growth and the latest Enterprise Ireland figures showed a successful 2019.
Jobs growth cannot be expected to grow at the kind of rapid pace as was the case in the past, she said.
Asked if the rate of jobs growth of Enterprise Ireland-assisted jobs outside the Dublin region should be growing faster and if this was evidence of an imbalanced economy, she said that the jobs growth across all regions was being helped by a range of initiatives, including the Government’s capital spending plans through 2040.
The Government was also working to help find new jobs to replace the over 800 posts that wil set to be lost between Novartis in Cork and at Molex in Shannon. On Brexit, the Minister
she reiterated that Boris Johnson’s goal of securing a free trade agreement with the EU by the end of the year was unrealistic.
Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said that the agency supported a large number of jobs in the food industry, but that the sector, although continuing to create jobs, was among the most affected by the Brexit uncertainty.
Enterprise Ireland would continue to encourage its client firms to extend markets beyond Britain, the agency said, and employment was growing strongly in sectors such as cleantech, financial technology, life sciences, electronics, and engineering the agency said.
It also launched an initiative to encourage more women managers into Irish firms. Its Action Plan for Women in Business will seek to support female-led firms led by women, provide new funding to Enterprise Ireland firms to hire senior managers, support a network of female business role models, and help fund women entrepreneurs and researchers at third level