All parts of the country are benefitting from more jobs, but the damaging over-concentration of employment in the greater Dublin region persists, leading economists have said.
This, as Government ministers hailed CSO figures that 81,200 jobs had been created in the past year and that employment had set another new record, of 2.3m in the first quarter.
The Business Minister, Heather Humphreys, said employment outside Dublin increased 60,200 in the year and had risen by 150,000 since 2016. The Government had already “well-exceeded” the target it had set itself three years ago, of creating 200,000 jobs by 2020, she said.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said that, at 4.6%, unemployment was the lowest since late 2005, displaying “the strength of Ireland’s labour market”.
However, economists said that while the CSO figures showed that all regions had seen an increase in jobs, the huge gap in economic activity and employment between the Dublin region and the rest of the country had not been narrowed.
Edgar Morgenroth, economics professor at the DCU Business School and former associate professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (where he wrote numerous reports on the mismatches between the Dublin and wider economy), said the figures showed little improvement in the concentration of the Irish economy to the major cities.
Senior economist Jim Power said that while all regions had benefitted, Dublin and the surrounding counties were still the engines of jobs.
“It is clear that Dublin and the mid-east account for nearly half the jobs,” Mr Power said.
“And it is not getting better at a pace that will help imbalances any time soon.”
Mr Morgenroth told the Irish Examiner that his analysis of the 81,200 additional jobs showed that Dublin accounted for a quarter of them, while the closest commuting counties around Dublin grabbed a further 29% share.
His analysis showed that Dublin — made up of four local city authorities — had a 26% share of the growth; the mid-east counties, of Meath, Kildare, and Wicklow, had a 29% share of the additional jobs; the border region, of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, as well as Louth, had a 7% share; the west, which includes Galway, Roscommon, and Mayo, accounted for a 6% share; the mid-west, of Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary, had a 5% share; the south-east, which includes Tipp South, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford, had 7% share; the south-west, of Cork and Kerry, claimed a 16% share of the new jobs; while the midlands, of Longford, Westmeath, Laois, and Offaly, grabbed only a 4% share.
Mr Morgenroth said his separate analysis of the increases in jobs showed that the mid-east accounted for the biggest increase in the year.
If the Government is suggesting there is no regional imbalance “then it is totally wrong”, Mr Morgenroth said. The share of jobs in Dublin had not changed since 2016 and the concentration had “actually increased”, he said. “You can genuinely claim that there has been growth everywhere. The figures show that. But there is no evidence of rebalancing,” he said.
“There is an issue of concentration and the data show that the growth rates of employment are not the same across the country,” Mr Morgenroth said.