Smaller Labour catchments across the Western Region

Analysis of Census of Population 2016 shows that at a Western Region level, the total number of jobs located within the Western Region was 242,712. The Census also reports that the total resident ‘at work’ population within the Western Region is higher, at 260,261 showing that more commute to work outside the Region than travel into the Region for work.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) recently published Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018). This provides a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, based on travel to work patterns,  namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon and is available for download here.

Where do people work?

The WDC analysis shows the place of work and where people live and changes over time. For example, a previous blogpost based on the report’s analysis identified the growth in numbers travelling to work in Dublin see here. The numbers and the share of all resident workers in each catchment travelling to work in Dublin has increased considerably – generally doubled or in some cases nearly trebled (for example Ennis and Roscommon).

Rural Employment

Travel catchment data highlights the potential labour supply available in each centre. The analysis of the seven labour catchments in the Western Region has highlighted the importance of rural areas (centres with less than 1,000 persons) as employment locations. For example, depending on the location of the county town and the proximity of nearby urban areas, a large proportion of residents are in fact employed in rural areas. In general, this rate is in excess of 22% with the exception being in the Sligo town labour catchment where only approximately 17% are employed in rural areas. Interestingly, the Ennis labour catchment has the highest level of rural employment with 26.9% employed in the Clare rural area, reflecting the low number of urban settlements (>1,000 population) within Clare.

Falling unemployment.. but?

With recent economic growth, unemployment levels have been falling and there is much talk of tightening labour markets and skill shortages. This is particularly true in some sectors and some locations, particularly Dublin and other large centres. However, to what extent is this happening in smaller centres across the West and North west?  The latest Labour Force Survey from the CSO (Q2 2018, Table 9) shows that nationally the unemployment rate is 6.0%, but in the West region it is 6.7% and in the Border region it is 6.6%.

Smaller labour catchments

Beyond the seven principal centres and the rural areas, there are many small towns which are also significant employment locations. The WDC is now undertaking analysis of the labour supply of these smaller centres. Each of the labour catchments identified are not based on town or county administrative boundaries, but on people’s travel to work patterns.

The town labour catchments show the geographical area from which a town draws most of its labour supply; each catchment is based on the inclusions of Electoral Divisions (EDs) that are assigned to a town, based on maximum commuting to work flows.

All the town labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the Census population at work for that town and have therefore access to a larger labour supply than normal Census definitions would indicate.

Potential Labour Supply

At a regional and local level, the identification of the key employment centres in the Western Region and the potential labour supply available for future growth should provide important insights for policy­makers, nationally, regionally and locally.

These data will help inform various national, regional and local plans, some with longer term time horizons such as Project Ireland 2040 and the Regional Economic and Spatial Strategies and other plans with shorter time frames such as County Development Plans and Local Area Plans

The 26 smaller Labour catchments in the Western Region are currently being analysed and a short report on each town catchment (see table below for complete list) will be available on www.wdc.ie in late 2018, early 2019.

Deirdre Frost