OLIVER MANGAN: Jobs growth nears peak

The latest CSO data on the Irish labour market show continuing strong job growth, with total employment likely to surpass its pre-crash peak later this year.

The data incorporate adjustments by the CSO to take account of revisions to population estimates arising from the 2016 census. 

The figures also involve some other methodological changes as they are now based on a new Labour Force Survey which replaces the previous Quarterly National Household Survey.

Employment reached a peak of 2.24m at the end of 2007 and then declined to close on 1.87m by the third quarter of 2011. 

Two sectors — construction and industry — saw particularly severe contractions, shedding 250,000 jobs.

Employment has been on a steady uptrend since late 2011, reaching 2.19m in the third quarter of last year, a rise of almost 320,000. 

With the economy adding around 50,000 jobs annually, it should surpass the previous peak of close to 2.24m in the second half of this year.

It has been a long journey back for the economy. There has been strong job growth in recent years in sectors that suffered severe declines in employment during the recession, like construction and industry. 

Notably, though, employment in construction at 127,000, is still some 114,000 below its peak level, which makes the recovery in total employment all the more commendable.

Meanwhile, the past year has seen strong employment growth is some services sectors — including education, healthcare, IT and administration. 

Not surprisingly, given the sectors involved, there has been a good rise in public sector employment of 10,000, or 2.5%, in the latest 12-month period.

There are also some other noticeable trends in the data. There has been a significant slowdown in the pace of employment growth over the course of last year following a sharp rebound in job creation between 2013 and 2016.

On a more positive note, there is a shift away from part-time to full-time employment. 

The data show a continuing strong downtrend in unemployment, with the numbers declining by 37,400 in the latest 12-month period.

Data suggest that the unemployment rate declined to around 6.4% in the final quarter of 2017. 

While employment growth has slowed, the jobless rate still looks set to fall to around 5.5% by the end of this year.

Oliver Mangan is chief economist with AIB.

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