DESPITE RECENT BAD NEWS ON THE REDUNDANCY FRONT, THE DEMAND FOR WORKERS REMAINS STRONG, WITH 17,000 EXTRA WORKERS FROM OUTSIDE THE EU TAKING UP EMPLOYMENT LAST YEAR.
Labour demand was so strong in 2006 that not even migration from the enlarged EU was sufficient to fill all the new jobs with 17,000 extra workers coming from outside the EU last year. Displacement does not seem to have been an issue given the fall in the unemployment rate for Irish nationals. While the demand for EU10 workers remains strong they have been earning considerably less than their Irish counterparts. However, on a more positive note for EU10 nationals, there are signs that this earnings gap is closing. Those who arrived in 2004 saw their average weekly earnings rise by approximately 12% in 2005 . A new development in immigration trends has been the large inflow of Romanian citizens (over 5,000) in the first two months of 2007. Currently, their EU status allows them to work here as self-employed but not as employees .
Vacancies reached record levels last year with the number of vacancies notified to FÁS rising by 18% to 144,000 in 2006 - the highest in the Agency's history.
By the end of 2006, employment had grown by 85,500 to 2.07 million and the unemployment rate was down to 4.1% the lowest it has been for 5 years, with the numbers unemployed falling to 88,700.
Looking ahead, jobs growth is forecast to moderate this year due to the impact of higher interest rates. We are forecasting employment to increase by 2.8% (57,000) in 2007.
While it is too early to make precise forecasts for 2008, current indicators suggest that the rate of employment growth will continue to moderate next year.
According to FÁS economist Brian McCormick: "Overall, the latest statistics suggest that, despite recent bad news on the redundancy front, the demand for workers remains extremely robust. However, the reliance on the construction sector which accounted for almost a third of the new jobs is a cause of some concern, given that interest rate rises, both recent and anticipated, are likely to subdue housing demand in the short to medium-term."