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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

New Regional FDI Targets

Yesterday’s announcement of IDA Ireland’s new 5-year strategy put considerable focus on the regional balance of future FDI investments.

The strategy includes a target to increase the number of investments in every region, outside of Dublin, by 30-40% over the lifetime years of the strategy. With Dublin maintaining a similar level to currently. For example for the West, which received 71 investments over the 2010-2014 period, the target is to achieve 92-99 investments over 2015-2019. For the Border region the target is 61-66 investments (it received 47 in the past five years). These targets do not just refer to new name investments, but include expansions by existing FDI companies and R&D investments.

Map of current IDA regional profile

Map of current IDA regional profile

The record in achieving regional FDI investment targets to date has not been particularly good and it is interesting to note the IDA states that it sees these regional FDI targets as ‘… collective targets for the stakeholders in each region to work together to achieve’. Together with considerable emphasis on the role of the upcoming Regional Enterprise Strategies (or Regional Action Plans) being prepared by DJEI, there seems to be more focus on the role of other actors in attracting FDI.

It has been highlighted elsewhere that Local Authorities, with their increased economic and enterprise development remit through the LEOs, could become more active in targeting smaller scale FDI opportunities, including through county diasporas.

In setting out how it plans to deliver on these targets, IDA Ireland refers to developing sectoral ecosystems in the regions by aligning IDA business sectors with regions and their strengths as well as working more closely with EI to maximise clusters and linkages with indigenous businesses. The €150m investment in property solutions in various locations, including Sligo, Castlebar and Galway in the Western Region, announced a few weeks ago, seems to be viewed as a key element in achieving the targets.

As we highlighted in our analysis of agency assisted employment, recent agency assisted jobs growth has been driven more by the foreign owned sector in the Western Region than in the rest of the state, largely because of the weaker performance of the region’s Irish owned assisted sector. Efforts to achieve the regional FDI targets hold particular importance for the Western Region.

Pauline White

Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Counties

The WDC published its report on ‘Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region’ last week. This included an analysis of data for each of the seven western counties. The main findings for the western counties are:

  •  Galway: In 2013, there were 23,650 people working in agency assisted jobs. Galway has the third highest share in Ireland of agency assisted jobs as a share of total jobs at 23.5%. Over 60% of agency assisted jobs in Galway are in foreign owned companies (2013), this is the highest level for the past ten years. Since 2010 employment in assisted foreign owned companies grew by 19% while in Irish owned it only grew 3%. Modern Manufacturing, which includes medical devices and ICT, is Galway’s largest sector and in 2013 reached its highest level with 8,750 permanent full-time jobs.
  • Clare: In 2013, there were 9,250 people working in agency assisted jobs. Clare has the fifth highest share in Ireland of agency assisted jobs as a share of total jobs at 20.3%. Just over 40% of agency assisted jobs in Clare are in foreign owned companies (2013); this is considerably lower than ten years ago. Since 2010 jobs in assisted Irish owned companies in Clare have remained relatively stable, while foreign owned have continued to decline, with some slight recovery in 2013. Traditional Manufacturing is Clare’s largest sector and has grown since 2011, as has Modern Manufacturing. Assisted jobs in the international services sectors are declining however, which has meant that total assisted jobs have not grown.
  • Mayo: In 2013, there were 8,310 people working in agency assisted jobs. The total number in Mayo is close to the 2006/2007 peak and a higher share are now in permanent full-time jobs. Mayo had the second highest growth in agency assisted jobs in the Western Region in 2013 at 4.9%. There was stronger growth in foreign owned companies (6.1%) than Irish owned (2.7%) in that year. Assisted jobs in Mayo are almost evenly divided between foreign and Irish companies. Mayo’s largest assisted employment sector is Modern Manufacturing, which includes medical devices and chemicals, with almost 3,000 permanent full-time jobs. This is its highest level in the past ten years.
  • Donegal: In 2013, there were 7,850 people working in agency assisted jobs. The biggest change in the county over the past ten years is the rise in the share that are permanent full-time from 78% to 86.3% (2004-2013). The total number of agency assisted jobs in Donegal was up 4.4% in 2013. Donegal has the lowest share of its assisted jobs in foreign owned companies in the Western Region at 38.1%, although this is the county’s highest share of the past ten years. While assisted jobs in foreign owned companies have been growing since 2010, those in Irish owned companies showed their first increase since 2007 in 2013. Information and Communications is the assisted sector with the strongest recent jobs growth, up 30.9% between 2010 and 2013.
  • Sligo: In 2013, there were 3,880 people working in agency assisted jobs. 15.3% of total jobs in the county were agency assisted, which is below the state average (19.3%). Of total agency assisted jobs, 12.5% are temporary/part-time. This is below the Western Region average but the highest level in Sligo between 2004 and 2013. Some 55.6% of assisted jobs in Sligo are in foreign owned companies; lower than a decade earlier. Irish owned assisted employment has grown steadily since 2011 and was up 4.8% in 2013. Sligo’s second largest assisted sector – Traditional Manufacturing – has had the strongest recent growth, up a fifth (21.5%) between 2010 and 2013.
  • Roscommon: In 2013, there were 2,360 people working in agency assisted jobs. Roscommon had the highest growth in such jobs in the Western Region in 2013 at 6%. This growth was driven by Irish owned companies. 2013 was the first year that agency assisted jobs grew in Roscommon since 2007; later than in most other counties. In a national context, the county has a low share of agency assisted jobs. Agency assisted jobs in Roscommon are very concentrated in manufacturing. At 51.2%, the share of Roscommon’s agency assisted jobs that are in the Modern Manufacturing sector, which includes medical devices and pharma, is the second highest in Ireland. The sector showed strong growth in 2013 (6.6%), with Traditional Manufacturing also increasing (10.1%).
  • Leitrim: In 2013, there were 1,310 people working in agency assisted jobs. Leitrim has the highest share of its agency assisted jobs in foreign owned companies (62.9%) in the region and is third highest nationally. Despite this, agency assisted jobs in Leitrim declined in each year between 2004 and 2013. All other western counties, except Clare, have seen some recovery since 2010. While total numbers are declining, Irish owned assisted jobs in Leitrim have begun to recover, up 8.4% in 2013. International Services was Leitrim’s largest agency assisted sector for most of the ten years. In 2012 it was surpassed by Traditional Manufacturing which is now the largest. However, the Modern Manufacturing sector has performed best in recent years with permanent full-time jobs up 8.3% in 2013.

Download the two page WDC Insights, full report and 7 county profiles here

Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region

The WDC has today published a new WDC Insights Trends in Agency Assisted Employment in the Western Region as well as a county profile for each of the seven western counties.

Employment in businesses which have received support from one of the main enterprise agencies, which are usually export oriented, is termed agency assisted employment. The WDC has published its analysis of data on these businesses for the Western Region for 2004 to 2013.

Our analysis has found that:

  • Lower recent growth: There was less volatility in assisted job numbers in the Western Region over the period. Assisted jobs in the region have not grown as strongly as in the rest of the country since growth resumed in 2010.
  • More permanent full-time employment: Recent assisted jobs growth in the Western Region is more likely to be permanent full-time with the share of temporary/part-time jobs lower now than at the start of the period.
  • Concentrated by sector: Assisted jobs in the Western Region are more concentrated by economic sector than in the rest of the state and manufacturing activities continue to dominate.
  • Foreign owned sector driving growth: The strongest recent assisted jobs growth has been in the modern manufacturing and information and communication sectors which are the sectors with the highest shares of foreign ownership. The foreign owned sector has driven recent growth in the Western Region to a greater extent than in the rest of the state.
  • Irish owned sector performing less well: There has been much greater volatility in the Irish owned sector over the ten year period and the region’s Irish owned sector is not showing as strong a recovery as in the rest of the country.
  • Urban concentration: Urban concentration, especially in the cities, is a feature of assisted jobs. The resumption of growth does appear to be spreading across the Western Region to some degree, although Clare and Leitrim have seen no increase in assisted employment.

Agency assisted employment is a key policy tool for job creation and unemployment reduction.  Recent growth in assisted jobs in the Western Region has not been as strong as elsewhere, particularly among Irish owned businesses.  Agency assisted job creation in the Western Region needs to focus on increasing sectoral diversity and strengthening the Irish owned sector.  Addressing the lower levels of assisted employment in the counties of the North West should also be a policy priority.

Download the two page WDC Insights, full WDC Report and/or 7 county profiles here