IRISH companies backed by Enterprise Ireland created nearly 4,000 more jobs than they lost last year, in what is being seen as a turning point for indigenous firms.
In its end of year statement, Enterprise Ireland (EI) said its client companies created 13,642 jobs, and cut 9,838. The net figure of +3,804 is the best result since 2006; indeed, it is the first significant job creation since that time.
As recently as 2009, more than 19,000 jobs were lost in EI client firms.
Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton hailed the results as a sign the domestic economy was beginning to turn the corner, albeit slowly.
" Indigenous firms were hit really hard in the downturn. Even last year there was minimal growth. Today we're reporting significant expansion in the indigenous sector and it represents a really strong performance," he said.
Most of the jobs were created in business services, food, software and machinery equipment, EI said.
By year end of 2012, just over 172,000 people were employed by EI client companies. A little under 147,000 were full-time staff, while the remainder were part-timers. In addition, EI said new job commitments made by client firms in 2012 were over 7,000, well ahead of the target of 6,250 for the year.
Encouragingly, EI was at pains to point out that growth was achieved all over the country and not just in Dublin. The south-east performed particularly well, the agency claimed. Overall, 75pc of the jobs were created outside the capital.
EI chief executive Frank Ryan said he was "extremely proud" of his agency's performance.
"(The companies we work with) have proved to be resilient and relentless in their pursuit of new market opportunities and they are to be commended on their success," he said.
"Enterprise Ireland is determined to continue to support their job creation initiatives and identify and help secure overseas business in established and high-growth markets."
Despite the strong 2012 figures, Mr Ryan warned this year would be every bit as challenging as the last one.
"Our companies are competing against the biggest and best in the world. We will focus more resources on the strategies that deliver jobs through exports, competitiveness and innovation.
"We will continue to increase the number of 'high-potential start-ups' from within Ireland and overseas and realign, where necessary, our overseas network to meet the needs of our clients," he added.
Last year EI provided funding worth €254.6m to its client firms. Mr Ryan yesterday said he expected the 2013 figure to be "something similar".
Even with the strong figures overall, parts of the economy continued to decline. Unsurprisingly, the construction sector lost more jobs than were created, and that had a knock- on effect into the timber industry and jobs in engineering that were reliant on construction.
The highlight of the year for EI was Kerry Group's decision to establish an innovation centre in Naas, Co Kildare. The facility, which will eventually employ 900 people, will have about 200 staff by April. Mr Ryan said Kerry's decision to set up here had essentially secured Ireland's global position in the food business for "decades".
"That deal is every bit as important for the food industry as Intel setting up in Kildare in 1989 was for the tech sector in Ireland," he claimed.