Construction jobs surge helps push up workforce by 50,000
A BOOM in construction jobs fuelled a 50,500 surge in the numbers at work in Ireland last year.
But employment in the building industry has not bounced back to Celtic Tiger levels.
New figures reveal that the number of people at work grew by just over 2pc, or 50,500 people, while unemployment plummeted by more than 10pc last year.
The number of people at work rose to 2.27 million - an all-time high.
However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar came under fire as Fianna Fáil accused him of failing to foster job creation outside the M50. Fianna Fáil said a regional employment imbalance has deepened - as more than half of all jobs were created in Dublin.
And business groups warned that the move towards full employment is triggering skills shortages.
They demanded more work permits and investment in housing and education to fill gaps for highly sought talent.
New data also shows that the public service workforce has grown by 20,000 in the last three years. There were increases in all sections of the state workforce, except the defence forces according to the Central Statistics Office's latest Labour Force Survey.
Numbers in the sector, including semi-state bodies, rose from 379,700 three years ago to 399,700 last year.
Civil service numbers rose from 38,100 to 41,700, while garda numbers increased from 12,800 to 14,200, and staff employed in the health service jumped from 122,200 to 133,300. However, the numbers working in defence slumped from 9,500 to 9,300.
In contrast, the private sector workforce rose from 1.28 million to 1.45 million - a hike of 171,300.
The number of self-employed workers slumped by almost 4pc or 12,100 people over the year to 319,600. Many of these were farmers, according to statistician Jim Dalton.
Employment grew in most sectors of the economy, with the biggest growth of almost 13pc in administration and support service activities - where numbers rose by 11,900. There was a surge of just under 8pc or 10,600 employees at work in construction. Some 144,000 workers were working in construction at the end of last year - but this is well short of numbers before the property bubble burst. There were 237,300 working in the industry in 2006, and 232,600 a year later. The number fell dramatically in the recession, with just 85,100 working in it by the end of 2012.
Ibec economist Alison Wrynn said some members of the employers' group are operating below capacity because they can't find the workers required, and that increasing the number of employment permits was necessary.
She said employment continues to grow at one of the fastest rates in the EU.
However, it slowed towards the end of last year and it is likely this trend will continue even if a deal on Brexit is reached, she added.