Over 17,000 jobs were lost at companies supported by Enterprise Ireland last year, despite job creation closely matching the same levels as 2019.
Almost 16,500 jobs were created by EI-backed companies in 2020, but the challenges of both Covid-19 and Brexit meant some 17,368 jobs were lost, leaving a net drop in employment of 872.
Enterprise Ireland said its client companies in the life sciences and cleantech sectors saw significant employment growth in 2020, at 6.8% and 6%, respectively.
While the construction industry was forced to close under the initial lockdown in March, overall it saw 4.7% growth in the sector.
Companies operating in the information communications technology and interactional services and food sectors, however, reported net job losses of 1.6% and 1.5%.
EI chief executive Julie Sinnamon noted that while there was an overall decline of 872 jobs, full-time jobs increased in Ireland by 1,184 last year, with job losses fuelled by part-time workers where some 2,000 jobs were lost.
"That suggests to me that when companies had to drop employees, they let their part-time staff go first," she said.
The State agency provided some €142m in support to almost 2,000 businesses last year in an effort to keep clients afloat during the pandemic.
Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Miniser Leo Varadkar said EI had played “a critical role” in delivering on the Government's priorities of sustaining as many jobs as possible and helping businesses adapt to a radically different trading environment last year.
“The good news is that we now have vaccines, which will, over the course of the year, allow us to reduce restrictions and get those sectors back on their feet," he said.
"We will continue to invest in research and innovation to ensure our economy is prepared for the jobs of the future and to capitalise on new technology and opportunities as they arise," Mr Varadkar said.
EI also announced its strategic priorities for 2021 today, setting out ambitions to sustain and increase employment to 222,000; support a recovery in exports, with a continued focus on market diversification, in particular to the eurozone; and to increase the level of research and development investment by Irish companies to €1.25bn.
“Another priority area for 2021 is to maximise the number of start-up companies, increase the number of high-growth clients achieving scale, and expand the number of exporting companies," Ms Sinnamon said.
"Having strong, innovative, regionally based exporting companies is vital to balanced economic development and sustaining and creating high-value jobs into the future."
"2021 will be a critical year for Irish enterprise and we will work closely with Irish businesses to help them accelerate the recovery," she concluded.