Returning emigrants could provide a much-needed regional jobs boost as new research suggests a continuing division in the pace of recovery across the country.
The broader economic pickup is likely to attract an increasing number of Irish overseas workers back to the country in the coming 12 months with lower living costs outside of the main urban centres likely to be of particular interest.
The expected increase in emigrants taking up job offers on home soil is seen as one of the major job market trends in Morgan McKinley’s Irish salary and benefits guide for 2016.
Rather than being drawn only to cities such as Dublin and Cork, the monitor suggests regional towns’ lower cost of living could prove a major draw to this cohort of workers.
Such an influx of returning talent to the jobs market — especially in regional towns — could provide an important stimulus to commercial activity as a separate report paints a somewhat less optimistic picture.
An analysis of commercial vacancies across the country carried out GeoDirectory —the joint venture between An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland — suggests a two-speed recovery in economic activity persists.
Its half-yearly Geoview report shows commercial vacancies on the rise in Connacht and Ulster while Munster and Leinster registered improvements.
While the increases are modest in both instances —0.2% and 0.1% respectively —the fact that particularly strong national GDP growth failed to make a dent in vacancies in two of the country’s provinces is somewhat worrying.
The average commercial vacancy rate in Connacht stood at 14.8% at the end of 2015 while the equivalent rate in Ulster climbed to 12.7% in the year.
The report states that a number of counties in Connacht and Ulster have “yet to recover and are still seeing an increase in vacancy rates”.
The increases remain a worry but hope for recovery is evident, according to GeoDirectory chief executive Dara Keogh.
“The trends we saw throughout 2013 and 2014 seem to have shifted. Where in the past we saw vacancy rates increasing at varying rates, we are now seeing falling vacancy rates in many parts of the country.
"Connacht and Ulster still seem to be struggling, however there are strong signs of a recovery with just eight counties across the country showing an increase in commercial vacancy rates on year,” said Mr Keogh.
Munster’s annual vacancy rate dipped 0.2% to 11.9% while the rate in Leinster saw the same decrease, to 12.4%. Limerick (15.3%) remains towards the upper end of the vacancy charts with only Sligo (16.4%) and Leitrim (16.1%) faring worse while Cork was closer to the other end of the table with a vacancy rate of 10.9%.
Cork also had the greatest absolute decrease in vacancy as 193 fewer commercial address points were vacant at the end of last year than in the corresponding period of 2014.
Kerry has the country’s lowest rate of vacancies with 9.2% of commercial properties unoccupied. Of the 16 counties to see a decrease in during 2015, 10 were in Leinster with a further three in Munster.
The improvement in Leinster appeared to be weighted more towards the beginning of the year, however, with the rate remaining stable from the second quarter onwards.
Wexford (10.1%) and Wicklow (12.5%) were the only counties in the province to register an increase in the year.
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