Monday 27 January 2020

Two-tier recovery as jobs growth fails to reach the regions

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton
Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton

Colm Kelpie

JOBS Minister Richard Bruton has admitted the Government hasn't done enough for regional development outside Dublin as new figures show unemployment rates up to 40pc higher outside the capital.

More than 31,000 extra people are in work now compared with this time last year and nationally the unemployment rate fell to 11.3pc in July - a level not seen in five years. There are now 1.9 million people in work.

But there are stark differences in the jobless rates between Dublin and the regions, with one expert describing it as a multi-speed recovery.

The unemployment rate in the capital fell to 10pc by the end of June, but it was as high as 14.3pc in the South-East region and it actually increased in the West to 13.1pc. "There has been a gap in the way in which we have approached regional development," Mr Bruton said.

"We now believe there's a need for a more focused regional enterprise strategy and we'll be producing a framework for that in the next quarter."

Employment increased 1.7pc or by 31,600 between April and June compared with the same period last year, although the pace of growth has slowed compared with previous quarters. Full-time employment continues to lead the way, increasing 2.4pc, signalling employers have confidence in the economic recovery.

Long-term unemployment fell to 6.8pc, but they still represent 57.6pc of the total numbers out of work. Youth unemployment stands at 26.9pc compared to below 10pc for those over 35.

The starkest figures, however, are in the regional breakdown, which shows that Dublin, perhaps as expected as the main urban hub, has the lowest unemployment rate of any of the regions.

The South-East, which includes counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford, has the highest unemployment rate at 14.3pc. But this is down from 19pc just two years ago. The Border, Midland and Western region, which includes Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo, has a jobless rate of 13.3pc. That's down from 16.8pc two years ago. Unemployment in the West has increased to 13.1pc compared with 10.9pc recorded between January and March.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the figures point to a continuing recovery in the labour market.

"We have now had seven consecutive quarters of solid annual employment expansion and we have now seen an increase in employment of over 70,000 since the low-point in mid-2012," he said. "We are now seeing that the difficult decisions taken by this government are bearing fruit."

Overall, employment increased in 10 of the 14 economic sectors. Goodbody stockbrokers economist Dermot O'Leary said that while the employment growth momentum has slowed, it remains impressive and has become more broad-based.

"From a geographical perspective, the unemployment rate is lowest in Dublin, but stands at over 14pc in the South East of the country. While the improvement in labour market conditions is undoubtedly positive, a multi-speed dimension remains a feature," he said.

Irish Independent

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