DUBLIN (Reuters) — The Irish government's investment agency has announced that job losses at multinational companies were the lowest for a decade and predicted a return to pre-crisis peak levels of employment by such firms this year.
Multinationals, whose employees account for almost 10 per cent of Ireland's workforce, have partly offset large-scale job losses across Ireland's struggling domestic economy in recent years and have helped keep export activity buoyant.
The Industrial Development Agency (IDA) said a net 6,570 jobs were created by firms such as Apple and eBay's Paypal in 2012, the third consecutive year of employment growth, and it predicts a similar increase this year.
That would see the almost-153,000 people employed in the sector rise above the 156,000 working in global firms before Ireland's economic crash in 2008, although the IDA said there were risks to its forecast, notably from the euro zone debt crisis.
"Key global markets are slowing down, particularly in Europe, which is a key focus for IDA's existing and potential clients," chief executive Barry O'Leary told a news conference as he presented the IDA's end of year review.
"However there are definite opportunities for growth in the IT/technology sector, in specific areas of financial services, in life sciences, in social/digital media and in sectors where consolidation is taking place on a pan-European basis."
O'Leary, whose agency is responsible for wooing foreign direct investment to the country, said there were a large number of projects in the pipeline for this year.
Ireland's ultra-low 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate remains a key draw for companies and he added that countries keen to attract foreign companies, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Switzerland, will pose increased competition in a strained European market.
With unemployment stuck close to 15 per cent for over two years, the IDA's positive outlook, together with data last week that showed a slight fall in December jobless figures, add to tentative signs that Ireland's economy may be slowly on the mend.
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