Employment in Irish economy rises but at lowest annual rate in three years

Latest Labour Force Survey shows the number of people employed in the Irish economy stood at 2.7 million in the first quarter of 2024

The number of people employed in the Irish economy stood at 2.7 million in the first quarter of 2024, an increase of 51,500 on the same period last year.

The annual change of 1.9 per cent was, however, the lowest annual increase recorded in three years and comes amid slower growth here and across the euro zone on the back of higher interest rates and ongoing cost-of-living challenges.

The latest Labour Force Survey from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that 2.704 million people were classified as being employed in the first three months of year, marginally down on the 2.706 million recorded in the previous quarter.

The slightly weaker level of employment coincided with an increase in unemployment, which rose by 0.1 per cent to 4.1 per cent, equating to 115,200 people. The headline jobless rate is still low by historical standards.


Despite headwinds, the Irish economy continues to perform strongly.

The sectors that saw the largest year-on-year growth in employment were the professional, scientific and technical activities, which increased by 26,300 or 15.4 per cent and the education sector (up 16,900 or 7.9 per cent).

The largest decrease was observed in the industry sector where employment fell by 11,200 or 3.4 per cent. The industry sector includes much of the State’s big pharma players, which have been hit by falling levels of demand internationally.

The latest figures indicated that an estimated 573,400 or 21.2 per cent of those in employment worked part-time. Also, 21.8 per cent of those in part-time jobs were classified as “underemployed” meaning “they would like to work more hours for more pay”.

The agency noted that the number of people in the labour force, whether employed or unemployed, rose to 2.81 million in the first quarter.

Rugby star. Businessman. Philanthropist: What is the legacy of the late Tony O’Reilly?

Listen | 33:44

It said changes in the labour force are typically influenced by changes in the size of the working age population, otherwise known as the demographic effect. In recent years this has been driven mainly by immigration.

The CSO noted this demographic effect contributed to an increase of 42,800 to the labour force in the year to the first quarter.

In addition, the change in the size of the labour force has also been bolstered by increased participation, particularly from women.

The overall participation rate was unchanged at 65 per cent. The participation rate for males was 70.2 per cent compared to 60.1 per cent for women.

The estimated average number of hours worked in the first quarter was 85.4 million hours per week, which was 100,000 fewer hours worked per week when compared with the first quarter of last year.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times