EAMON QUINN: Irish jobs growth despite ‘massive’ Brexit fears

Business group Ibec said — even amid the “massive worry” that Brexit is savaging a number of Irish-owned industries — that overall employment levels will return to their pre-crash peak at the end of next year.

A separate survey published this morning — the Ulster Bank construction purchasing managers’ index for the Republic — was also upbeat on the prospects for new hires, with the industry’s expansion driving the sharpest rise in building jobs last month since February.

Ibec said a pickup in spending and the growth in multinationals were driving economic expansion, even as it slashed its growth outlook to 3.7% this year and to 2.8% for 2017.

But it saw no let up in the pain for Irish-owned exporters selling goods and services across the Irish Sea, projecting that sterling could slump back to below 90 pence from around 84 pence currently after the UK triggers Article 50 and starts its formal divorce talks with Brussels next year.

The weakness of sterling against the euro can be particularly troublesome for the profitability of Irish SMEs.

“The impact of sterling’s collapse on indigenous exporters is a massive worry. Output in food manufacturing, our largest indigenous export sector, fell by 2% annually in the first three quarters of the year and turnover was down by over 2.8%,” said its senior economist Gerard Brady.

“These figures point to turnover loss of almost €700m in the food industry in 2016,” he said.

Warning also that Ireland’s business model which focuses on world trade could be under threat as global trade growth weakens, Ibec said the State can afford a “much more ambitious investment programme”.

The separate Ulster Bank survey found that the new focus on building houses to meet the housing and homelessness crisis may be leading to significant levels of new hirings.

“The best-performing sector in November was housing, the first time this has been the case in seven months,” said Simon Barry, chief executive of Ulster Bank in the Republic.

“The rate of expansion in the category was substantial, having quickened for the second month running to the fastest since February,” he said.

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