Record job numbers for Enterprise Ireland firms
Almost 70pc of the new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland-backed companies last year were outside Dublin.
The state agency responsible for supporting exporting businesses said companies created 19,705 jobs last year, with the strongest increases in software and services. But when job losses were taken into account, the net figure fell to 8,476.
The net increase was the biggest gain in the agency's history and the lowest level of job losses since 2000. Jobs Minister Richard Bruton described the performance as extraordinary.
"It shows that we are winning new export markets," Mr Bruton said. "Every region is seeing employment growth. It is really encouraging to see that 70pc almost of the new job gains are outside of Dublin.
"This is a really strong part of the way in which we can drive regional growth."
Mr Bruton said that the country can now "rightly talk about the Irish Mittlelstand companies". He said that these are "companies who have built up their own innovation and capacity to win global markets. It is a really exciting time in Irish industrial history," he said.
The minister said the country remained on track to return to full employment by 2018.
Julie Sinnamon, Enterprise Ireland chief ececutive, said the level of increased employment achieved is "remarkable". Last year Ms Sinnamon's first full year in the post.
"We continue to relentlessly focus on ensuring the right supports are available for clients at every stage of growth," she said.
"This focus, coupled with our priority to support entrepreneurship across the regions ... will mean even more jobs over the next 12 months."
Total direct employment in EI-backed companies stood at 180,072 last year.