Worrying trend in the North West’s assisted jobs performance

The Annual Employment Survey for 2014  (PDF 0.25Mb) (formerly the Forfás Annual Employment Survey) was published a few weeks ago by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. This data counts agency assisted employment (jobs in companies which have received assistance from Enterprise Ireland, IDA or Udarás na Gaeltachta) and covers the 10 year period 2005-2014. We’ve examined the 2013 report at regional and county level in earlier posts.

In 2014 there were a total of 319,597 agency assisted permanent full-time jobs in the country, up 5.1% from the previous year. These were divided almost evenly between Irish (158,829) and foreign (160,768) owned companies, both of which experienced similar growth since 2013 (5.2% and 4.9% respectively). There were an additional 42,818 agency assisted temporary or part-time jobs.

Every region experienced growth in assisted jobs in 2014. The report contains a section on regional employment trends, which reviews trends for the Border, Midlands and West (BMW), South and East (S&E) and Dublin regions, but the smaller scale regional data contained in the Appendix (PDF 0.3Mb) tells a more interesting story. Particularly as it separates the North West and North East that are usually combined in the diverse Border region.

North West has largest fall in assisted jobs 2005-2014

Over the 10 years 2005-2014 the North West experienced the largest decline in agency assisted jobs of any region in Ireland. Total assisted jobs (both permanent and temporary) fell by -18.2% in the North West (Fig. 1). This was considerably greater than in the second highest, the Mid West, where they fell by -11.9%. The percentage decline in the North West was almost identical to the percentage increase experienced by Dublin over the same period (+18.0%).

The North West’s poor performance is due to the severity of its decline during the recession coupled with slower recovery.  Between 2007 and 2010 the North West had a -17.1% decline in total assisted jobs compared with the -12.2% national average. Then in the most recent year (2013-2014) it had the smallest increase in total assisted jobs of only 2.3%; compared with a national average of 4.5% and over 6% growth in some regions. In the previous year’s report, the North West had similar low growth of just 2.2% between 2012 and 2013, although at that time the South East and Mid West were lower. Both of these regions experienced a strengthening recovery in 2014.

Fig. 1: Percentage change in total assisted employment by region, 2013-2014 and 2005-2014. Source: DJEI (2015), Annual Employment Survey 2014, WDC analysis

Fig. 1: Percentage change in total assisted employment by region, 2013-2014 and 2005-2014. Source: DJEI (2015), Annual Employment Survey 2014, WDC analysis

North West’s Irish owned sector performing extremely poorly

The main driver behind the North West’s poor performance is the Irish owned sector. Irish owned assisted jobs in the North West fell by -20.7% between 2005 and 2014 (Fig. 2). This was substantially higher than the next largest decline of -6.7% which occurred in the West. In fact the only other regions with fewer Irish owned assisted jobs in 2014 than in 2005 were the South East (-6.3%) and the North East (-2.7%). Irish owned assisted jobs in the North West only grew by 1.9% between 2013 and 2014, compared with the 5.2% national average.

The North West has not performed well in the foreign owned sector either. The North West’s -14.9% decline in foreign owned assisted jobs over the 10 years was considerably worse than the national performance (5.1% growth). However several other regions had even greater declines (Mid West, Mid East and Midlands), showing the North West’s relatively better record in the foreign owned sector.  The North West’s Irish owned sector, and its very slow current recovery, seems to be at the heart of the region’s weak performance.

Fig. 1: Percentage change in total assisted employment by ownership and region, 2005-2014. Source: DJEI (2015), Annual Employment Survey 2014, WDC analysis

Fig. 1: Percentage change in total assisted employment by ownership and region, 2005-2014. Source: DJEI (2015), Annual Employment Survey 2014, WDC analysis

West’s Irish owned sector also struggling

Turning to the West region, it has performed well in recent years, with the third highest increase in foreign owned assisted jobs between 2005 and 2014. However, similar to the North West, the Irish owned sector is not experiencing much recovery with just 1.6% growth between 2013 and 2014 (the lowest of any region) leading to the West experiencing the second poorest overall jobs growth of just 2.4% in 2014.

There seems to be a fundamental issue with the North West and West’s Irish owned assisted sector not benefitting from the current upturn in the economy. The divergent performance of the Irish and foreign owned assisted sector in the Western Region, and the fact that the region’s jobs recovery is relying far more on the foreign owned sector than elsewhere, was highlighted in the WDC’s 2015 report Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region  which analysed 2013 data. The 2014 figures indicate that this trend has intensified even further.

The new Action Plan for Jobs for the West and Border regions, due to be published shortly, will need to contain very specific actions and targets to stimulate growth in indigenous exporting companies if this trend is to be reversed.

Pauline White