Predictions of negative jobs growth by Enterprise Ireland during last year became a sobering reality when the state agency reported the first fall in employment in agency-backed firms in 10 years.
The agency has attributed the loss to ‘difficult market conditions’, particularly in the technology sector.
The company’s end-of-year statement revealed a net loss of some 4,000 jobs in backed companies, significantly worse than expected when the state agency last July predicted a ‘small net loss’ in jobs. Enterprise Ireland client companies created 12,300 new jobs. However, losses of more than 16,338 marked the first net decline in 10 years.
Last year’s annual report in July showed that in 2001 some 14,000 jobs were created, with some 13,000 lost, marking a net gain of only 1,000 jobs.
However, end-of-year figures for 2002 showed that exports by Irish businesses increased by around 2pc to €11.8bn. The agency described Irish export companies, particularly technology firms, operating in difficult international market conditions.
A surprisingly upbeat Enterprise Ireland CEO, Dan Flinter, said that he expected an upsurge in market activity during 2003 and that the number of new start-ups coming on stream strengthened during 2002.
Some 25pc of 2002’s job losses were linked to the closure of 100 out of 3,000 Enterprise Ireland-backed firms. Going into 2003, Flinter said that the agency will actively support 60 start-ups, primarily in software, biotech and photonics.
By John Kennedy