Employment now just 12,000 below all-time peak
New CSO figures highlights sharp acceleration in employment in 2017
The construction sector recorded the second-highest rate of increase in employment last year. Photograph: iStock
Employment in the Irish economy is growing more rapidly than expected and is now just 12,000 below its pre-crash peak.
The latest official figures also show the turnaround is being led by the construction sector, which created an additional 12,000 jobs last year.
The Central Statistics Office’s new Labour Force Survey, which replaces the Quarterly National Household Survey, shows overall employment grew by 3.1 per cent or 66,800 last year. This brought total employment to 2.225 million, which was just below the State’s all-time peak of 2.237 million, recorded in the final quarter of 2007.
However, the CSO cautioned that the Republic now had a bigger population and a larger workforce than in 2007 and that the employment rate – at 68.3 per cent – was still well behind the pre-crash rate.
Nonetheless, the economy has now seen an upward trend in employment for the last 22 quarters.
“Since the low point in employment, we’re up 350,000,” Brian Ring of the CSO said.
The latest survey shows employment increased in 12 of the 14 sectors last year with the largest rates of increase in the administration and support services activities (+11.6 per cent or 9,800) and construction (+9.9 per cent or 12,000).
The largest decrease was recorded in professional, scientific and technical activities, which saw employment drop by 4.1 per cent or 5,700.
The CSO said there was an increase in full-time employment of 90,100 in 2017 and a corresponding decrease in part-time employment of 23,300 .
Unemployment fell by 23,400 or 14 per cent to 144,100, resulting in a headline jobless rate of 6.4 per cent at the end of 2017 and 6.1 per cent in February.
In its report, the agency noted that the number of people in the labour force was influenced by changes in the size of the working- age population, also known as the demographic effect.While this declined after the crash in 2009 on foot of emigration, it turned positive again in second quarter of 2014.
“Although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the labour market has improved dramatically over the past few years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery,” Merrion analyst Alan McQuaid said.
“ Indeed, the most recent migration estimates showed net inward migration of 19,800 in the year to April 2017 as against net inward migration of 16,200 in 2016, and the highest net inflow since 2008,” he said.
Davy analyst David McNamara said the monthly data suggested there was no let-up in the pace of growth in 2018.
“The bigger picture is that employment is now just shy of the 2007 peak at 2.23 million; however, with the population much larger than a decade ago and immigration flows accelerating, the labour market recovery is far from complete,” he said.