The Live Register figures for August 2011 published by the CSO yesterday shows that the number of people on the Live Register is now at its highest ever level in decades, amounting to close to half a million people (469,713). A perhaps more consoling statistic shows that the percentage increase in numbers on the Live Register over the past year amounts to 0.6%, a significantly lower level of increase than that experienced over the three previous years of the Crisis era, with percentage increases of 41.9% between August 2007 and August 2008, 76.9% between August 2008 and August 2009 and 6.8% between August 2009 and August 2010.  Looking across the past four years, numbers on the Live Register (based on August figures for the last four years as published by the CSO) have increased from 174,206 in August 2007 to 469,713 in August 2011, a percentage increase 169.6% over those four years.

In terms of gender trends, one interesting dimension of the August 2011 figures, when contrasted with the previous year’s figures, shows that the number of males on the Live Register fell over the past year (by 3,098, or 1.0%) while the number of females, by contrast, increased by 5,888 (3.5%). These trends were more evident in the Border-Midlands-West region, where the number of females on the Live Register increased by 5.0% (5,888 increase) while the number of males fell by 1.4% (fell by 1,255). Looking at the individual regions, gender difference in Live Register trends were most evident in the Midlands region, where the number of females on the Live Register increased by 6.7% while the number of males fell by 0.6%. The pattern of larger increases in female Live Register numbers was established over the previous year, wherein the number of females on the Live Register increased by 9.1% between August 2009 and August 2010 against a 5.6% increase in male numbers. These figures need to be put in the context of trends over the first two years of the Crisis however, which show massive increases in the number of males on the Live Register and shows the increase in male Live Register numbers between August 2007 and August 2009 to be significantly higher than female levels. The numbers of males on the Live Register increased by 182,580 (179.7%) over those two years, against an increase of 80,439 (110.8%) in female numbers. This could suggest that losses in terms of full-time employment were most keenly felt in male-dominated activities (such as construction) in the first two years of the Crisis, but that (full-time) employment losses over the past two years have been more notable within female-dominated employment sectors, such as Sales and Personal Services. Relatively higher levels of outmigration amongst males, as suggested by the recent release of Census 2011 provisional population figures, may also be a factor in terms of explaining gender differences over the past two years.

The other interesting difference that emerges relates to age and differences in Live Register numbers between the Under 25 and over 25 age cohorts. While the percentage increase in mumber on the Live Register was relatively similar for both the Under 25 (74.0%) and Over 25 (79.0%) age cohorts over the August 2008-9 period, in the past few years there has been a steady decline in numbers amongst the Under 25 age cohort  (falling by 1.2% over August 2009-10 period and 6.1% over August 2010-11 period) while the numbers of Over 25s on the Live Register continues to increase (up by 8.2% over August 2009-10 period and 2.3% over August 2010-11 period). On the one hand this suggests that out-migration may be acting as a means of reducing numbers of younger people on the Live Register, on the other hand it suggests that seriously high numbers of people in the Over 25 age category remain on the Live Register, with many now being unemployed or in low-paid casual/short-term employment on a long-term basis. As the breadwinners for families will tend to come from the Over 25 age cohort, a significantly higher number of people than 380,943 over 25s currently on the Live Register remain to be effected as a result.  

At the regional level, it is the regions that have experienced the greatest increases in population over the past five years (based on the 2011 Census provisional population figures) that have also experienced the greatest increases in Live Register numbers.

  Males     Females     Total    
  Aug-07 Aug-11   Aug-07 Aug-11   Aug-07 Aug-11  
Border 14352 41950 192.3% 10611 24767 133.4% 24963 66717 167.3%
Midlands 7056 22230 215.1% 5604 13057 133.0% 12660 35287 178.7%
West 9784 26924 175.2% 7500 16618 121.6% 17284 43542 151.9%
Dublin 27046 72876 169.5% 16522 40103 142.7% 43568 112979 159.3%
Mid East 8164 28136 244.6% 6324 16974 168.4% 14488 45110 211.4%
Mid West 8777 25809 194.1% 6638 15662 135.9% 15415 41471 169.0%
South East 12628 38670 206.2% 9656 22120 129.1% 22284 60790 172.8%
South West 13785 40258 192.0% 9759 23559 141.4% 23544 63817 171.1%
                   
State 101592 296853 192.2% 72614 172860 138.1% 174206 469713 169.6%
BMW region 31192 91104 192.1% 23715 54442 129.6% 54907 145546 165.1%

Table: Live Register figures comparison by region and gender between August 2007 and August 2011, based on figures published by the CSO

  Aug-07 Aug-11  
Border        24,963        66,717 167.3%
Midlands        12,660        35,287 178.7%
West        17,284        43,542 151.9%
Dublin        43,568      112,979 159.3%
Mid East        14,488        45,110 211.4%
Mid West        15,415        41,471 169.0%
South East        22,284        60,790 172.8%
South West        23,544        63,817 171.1%
       
State      174,206      469,713 169.6%
BMW        54,907      145,546 165.1%

Table 1a: Live Register figures comparison by region between August 2007 and August 2011, based on figures published by the CSO

The region that has experienced the greatest increase in Live Register numbers over the past four years is the Mid-East region, where there is now more than three times as many people on the Live Register than there was four years ago.  The next highest increase was observed for the Midlands region. Both those regions experienced significant increases in population levels over the past five years, with a 22.9 per thousand annual increase in population numbers in the Midlands and a 21.9 per thousand annual increase in population numbers in the Mid-East between 2006 and 2011, as compared with a state average of 15.5 based on the provisional 2011 Census figures published by the CSO. The combined population and Live Register figures suggests these may be the regions that need to be especially targeted in terms of future employment initiatives.

NB: The Live Register figures do not only include the numbers of unemployed, but also include part-time, seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance.

Adrian Kavanagh

Earlier this year Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin at the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) contributed an informative blog post to IAN on the geography of unemployment in Ireland. In particular, their post addresses the lack of data on, and analysis of, the geography of unemployment at a sub-regional level.

Official unemployment data in Ireland are provided every quarter by the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS), which releases details about both the number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate at national and regional levels. In addition, on a monthly basis the CSO releases Live Register data detailing the number of claimants in each social welfare office. Based on this data release, the CSO also estimate unemployment rates at the regional level, but not at the sub-regional level.

NIRSA provided an insight into the sub-regional unemployment dynamics based on an analysis of the changes in the absolute number of claimants in all the social welfare offices. NIRSA was also able to map these dynamics based on some ground-breaking work on estimating the catchment areas of these social welfare offices. Unfortunately this does not inform us about the unemployment rates at a sub-regional level. Apart from the fact that the live register data are not designed to measure unemployment, there are no official labour force data for the individual social welfare offices. As a result, it is not possible to discuss a given catchment area’s unemployment growth in terms of that catchment area’s overall labour force.

Building on the work of NIRSA, students at the NUI Maynooth Department of Geography set out to address this issue and have estimated unemployment rates at a sub-regional level, based on the total number of claimants in social welfare offices and a proxy for the labour force: the 2006 labour force in the different catchment areas, based on the 2006 Census data.

It should be noted that a number of  caveats should be attached to the results:

1)      The number of claimants is not the same as the official number of unemployed as used in the QNHS. The Live Register is an over-estimation of the official number of unemployed since it includes, amongst others, part-time workers, seasonal workers and casual workers.

2)      The definition of the labour force applied in the Census differs from the definition applied by the QNHS.

3)      The social welfare office catchment areas developed by NIRSA are estimates, based on the assumption that a recipient will register at the nearest office to their residence.  The areas are approximate catchments, wherein the vast majority of people live within the designated area, but a relatively small number of claimants might live beyond its bounds. To get an indication of the discrepancy in the two datasets we have subtracted the number of unemployed in the Census from the Number of Claimants in the Life Register and expressed the difference as a percentage of the total labour force in 2006. For all but five of the 122 office the resulting figure was in the range of minus 4.5 per cent and plus 3.9 per cent. The main outliers concerned offices in the Dublin area. The figure for the nation as a whole was minus 1.2 per cent, indicating that the data on unemployed in the live register are lower than the numbers of unemployed in the Census but that the effect on the unemployment rate is relatively limited.

4)      The labour force has experienced significant changes since 2006 due to natural dynamics and migration effects. The effect for the overall period appears to be limited – between June 2006 and June 2010 the labour force shrank by 20,000. However, the effect for individual areas may be greater.

All these issues together mean that we have to be very careful in interpreting the calculated unemployment rate figures. The figures strongly overestimate the official figures presented in the recent QNHS. However, the results may nonetheless serve as an informative analysis of the geography of Irish unemployment since most of the issues influence the figures for all sub-regions in the same way.

The map below presents the geography of “unemployment rates” in September 2010 (with thanks to Justin Gleeson at NIRSA). A relatively large number of areas with high unemployment rates are found in The Border Region, The Midlands the South-East and the ‘Eastern Corridor’. But great intra-regional and even intra-county differences exist. Striking are the relatively low unemployment rates in many areas of County Dublin, County Kerry (with the notable exception of Tralee) and West Cork. In comparison, the urban centres of Dublin, Cork and Galway appear to be faring relatively better.

Chris van Egeraat

The last couple of years have been a disaster with respect to employment.  If it wasn’t for emigration, the unemployment rate would be undoubtedly be above 15%. In November 2007, as we coasted into the crisis, the unemployment rate was 4.8% with 169,700 people on the Live Register.  In November 2010 the unemployment rate was 13.5% with 438,800 people on the Live Register.  That’s a 258% increase in those signing on the Live Register.  Yesterday a number of news sources were reporting data from the Small Firms Assocition (SFA), KavanaghFennell accountants, Vision Net, and the IDA.

The SFA noted that 1,075 jobs were lost every week in 2010, over 60,000 redundancies being reported to DETI.  38% of those jobs were lost from the services sector, with 20% lost from manufacturing.  KavanaghFennell reported that more that 4 companies a day went out of business last year, with 1,525 Irish businesses declared insolvent, a rise of 8% on 2009.  Of these, 30% (472) were construction-related companies, 279 were service-related companies and 177 were in retail.  Vision Net reported that liquidations declined by 8pc, but remained over 2,000 (57% of which were declared insolvent).

On the plus side, Companies’ Registration Office reported that 14,015 limited companies were incorporated in Ireland during 2010, an increase of 4.7% on 2009.  In addition, IDA Ireland companies created 10,897 new jobs last year, with 126 FDIs secured.  Unfortunately, 13,066 companies were dissolved in 2010 and there were 9,545 job losses in IDA-supported companies.  In effect, it was a year of employment stabilization with only a year-on-year increase of 11,800 on the Live Register, and the number of companies operating in the country remaining roughly the same.

The absolute priority for 2011 and the incoming government has to be job creation, either through attracting in new FDI, helping indigenous companies expand, or enabling and encouraging new start-ups.  For the past couple of years job creation has been paid little more than lip-service, with attention focused on the bank bailouts and public finances.  We now need to focus on the real economy, getting credit flowing to business and putting in place schemes and programmes to get people back to work.  This needs to be the year of job creation.

Rob Kitchin

According to the latest Quarterly National Household Survey (Q2 2010, QNHS) from the CSO the national unemployment rate currently stands at 13.6%. The current rate has increased from 12.9% in the previous quarter and increased from a rate of 12% a year ago.

The QNHS has been in operation since September 1997 (replacing the old Labour Force Survey) and therefore provides a useful means of illustrating and monitoring labour market trends over time. The bulk of the data available through the survey is only available at a national level, however the survey does provide a breakdown of ILO Economic Status (In employment, Unemployed, In Labour Force, Unemployment Rate and Participation Rate) at a NUTS3 regional level. The unemployment rate here is calculated using the number of unemployed as a percentage of the total labour force and is based on the ILO (International Labour Office) labour force classification. This means that it’s also possible to put the Irish unemployment figures (national and regional) in context with international figures.

National

From the beginning of the survey up to the end of 2007 the unemployment rate In Ireland initially dropped from 10.4% in Q4 1997 to a low of 3.5% in Q3 2000. From this point up until the end of 2007 the rate remained relatively stable with an average rate of 4.3%. In early 2008 we started to feel the full effects of the downturn with large numbers signing on the live register (see here) and witnessed the subsequent unrelenting climb of the unemployment rate to today’s lofty heights of 13.6% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: ILO Unemployment Rate 2007 to 2010

Much of this increase has been attributed to the collapse of the construction industry and housing boom in Ireland. This has had a major effect on the unemployment rate due to the strong over-dependence of the workforce on construction related employment. A significant number of redundancies in industry related employment have also significantly contributed towards this increasing rate. Figure 2 details the strong dependence of the workforce on construction – at the end of 2006 almost 12.5%(268,400) of the labour force (employed and unemployed) were employed in construction related employment. This figure is now at 5.8% (125,300).

Figure 2: Sectoral Employment as a proportion of Labour Force

Another worrying aspect of the current unemployment trend is the increased number who are now classed as being ‘long-term unemployed’. According to the CSO this relates to those unemployed for one year or more expressed as a percentage of the total labour force. Since the beginning of 2008 the number of people now classed as ‘Long-term Unemployed’ has increased by 97,000. The Q1 2010 figure now represents 5.9% of the total labour force (Figure 3).

Figure 3: % of Labour Force classed as Long-Term Unemployed

European context

As per Q1 2010 the unemployment rate (12.9%) for Ireland was the 6th highest in the EU27 with only the Slovak Republic (15.1%), Lithuania (18.1%), Estonia (19.8%), Spain (20%) and Latvia (20.4%) with higher rates. Our current standing is in stark contrast to the situation 4 years ago when the unemployment rate in Ireland was the lowest in the EU27 at 4.2% (Figure 4). Over this 4 year period Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Spain have witnessed the greatest increases in unemployment rates. On the other hand countries such as Poland, Germany, Auatria and Malta have improved and unemployment rates have decreased (Figure 5).

Figure 4: ILO Unemployment Rate - Q1 2010

Figure 5: ILO Unemployment Rate - Q1 2006

Regional

There is considerable variance in unemployment rates across the country with the highest rate of unemployment currently in the South-East (18.1%) and the lowest in Dublin (11.5%). Dublin currently accounts for 23% of all those classed as unemployed in the country with a total of 69,500. This number has increased by 3.8% since Q1 2010 and by 7.5% in the last year. The rate of increase outside Dublin has been much higher and since Q2 2007 the regions that have been hit the hardest are the South-East, South-West and the West (Figure 6).

Figure 6: % of Labour Forced classed as Unemployed, Q2 2007 and Q2 2010

Justin Gleeson

As has been reported in the media over the past couple of years, unemployment and Live Register recipients have been increasing rapidly as the recession deepens.  To date though we have little detailed knowledge of their geography which prompted us to try and map Live Register data at the Social Welfare Office scale.

Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) which provides details on both the number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate at national and regional levels. According to the QNHS the number of unemployed people in Q3 ’09 was at a staggering 279,800, up from 102,600 in Q3 2006 (an increase of 173%). According to the CSO the QNHS classifies unemployed people as “those who, in the week before the survey, were without work or were available for work within the next two weeks, and had taken specific steps, in the preceeding four weeks, to find work”. Based on this classification the overall national unemployment rate has increased from 4.7% in Q3 ’06 to 12.7% in Q3 ’09. The QNHS also provides details at the NUTS 111 regional level. This gives a useful insight into the broad spatial trends across the country but the survey is not designed to allow an analysis at a sub-regional spatial scale (see Figure 1a and 1b).

Figure 1A and B: QNHS Unemployment Numbers and Percentage Change

Figure 1A and B: QNHS Unemployment numbers and percentage growth

An alternative method of analysing the spatial patterns of unemployment is to use the unadjusted Live Register at Social Welfare Office level. The Live Register is compiled from returns made by each local welfare office to the Department of Social and Family Affairs and passed onto the Central Statistics Office. It comprises of persons under-65 years of age in the following classes:

  • All Claimants for Jobseekers Benefit (JB) excluding systematic short-time workers
  • Applicants for Jobseekers Allowance (JA) excluding smallholders/farm assists and other self-employed persons
  • Other registrants including applicants for credited Social Welfare contributions but excluding those directly involved in an industrial dispute.

The Live Register is not specifically designed to measure unemployment as it includes part-time (those who work up to three days a week), seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Allowance or Jobseekers Benefit.  It does, however, allow an analysis of employment trends at both a county level and also at social welfare office level.  142 Social Welfare Offices are listed on the CSO website, data is however not available for all offices on a continuous time series basis as some have been closed for a number of years while others have been replaced by new offices. From September 2006 the number of offices has remained relatively stable with the exception for the Carrigaline Office which opened in Nov ’06 and the North Cumberland Street Office which was replaced by the Swords Office and King’s Inn Street in August ’09 – this data is not included in our analysis.  For the purposes of this analysis we will use 122 Social Welfare Offices open since September 2006.

In September 2006 there were 151,440 signing on the Live Register, this figure increased to a total of 436,936 in January 2010 (latest data available) representing a percentage increase of +188%.  The Live Register figures fluctuated marginally between our starting point (M09, 2006) and the end of 2007 with the percentage increase at 6.7% in November 2007. Figures steadily began to increase at this point and hit a peak of +187% in August 2009. Figures reduced slightly during the last months of 2009 but increased to hit a new high in January 2010 (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Unadjusted Live Register Growth: 09 '06 to 01 '10

The scale of this increasing trend varied across the country with some areas experiencing much higher percentage increases in job losses than others. Figure 3a below details the number of recipients per Social Welfare Office in September 2006 and Figure 3b highlights the percentage increase in each office to January 2010. The vast majority of offices witnessed an increase of greater than 100% with many in excess of 300% (these patterns are clearly shown in the animation below).

Figure 3A: Live Register recipients at Social Welfare Office 09 '06 (Offices are sorted from left to right by NUTS 111 Region (Border, Midlands, West, Dublin, Mid-East, Mid-West, South-East and South-West) and by number of recipients per office in 09 ‘2006. The animation below will provide more detail on the changing patterns.)

Figure 3B. Live Register Recipients by Social Welfare Office: % Change 09 '06 to 01 '10

In order to visualise the trends from our base date we have mapped Live Register growth at approximate Social Welfare Office catchments (see animation). At present the areas served by Social Welfare Offices do not correspond to specific geographic boundaries and registrants at a given local office do not necessarily reside within a precisely delineated area (e.g those signing at the Ballyfermot office do not necessarily have to live within the Ballyfermot area but may be from surrounding areas such as Palmerstown and Ronanstown that might be nearer to another office).  We have therefore created catchments for each office based on the assumption that a recipient will register at the nearest office to their residence.  The areas then are approximate catchments, wherein the vast majority of people live within the designated area, but a relatively small number of claimants might live beyond its bounds.

For a higher resolution animation please visit the NIRSA site (click here).

(a very pale area represents a decrease in Live Register claimants below the Q3 2006 rate, yellow 0-10% increase, pale brown 10-25% increase, light brown 25-50%, mid-brown 50-100% increase, dark brown 100-150% increase, red 150-200% increase, purple 200-250% increase and turquoise 250%+ increase).

What the animated map shows is that Live Register recipients fluctuated up and down for most of 2006, but from the start of 2007 started to increase rapidly, first in the south west before spreading nationally.  From the beginning of 2008 the first areas reached a 150% increase from the Q3 2006 figures, quickly followed by increases of 250% above the Q3 2006 figures in the south west, and increases of 200 to 250% in the commuter belts around the cities. By the end of 2009, most of the country was above the +150% rate with only a few peripheral areas such as parts of Waterford and the Atlantic fringe under that rate. As the Live Register figures continue to increase, those areas in red are likely to shift to purple and turquoise.  For our post on the microgeographies of the Live Register click here.

Justin Gleeson, Rob Kitchin, Matthias Borscheid

At present Live Register data are only available at the scale of the 120 or so social welfare offices.  These areas, which have no defined boundaries, whilst telling the story of Live Register at a sub-county scale are quite large in size, and mask the complex patterns of claimants on the ground.  As any local knows, not all places in an area are equally affected by the recession, with some neighbourhoods being disproportionally hit by job losses.  As studies in the UK and elsewhere demonstrate, where data can be mapped at the postcode level, large variations can occur across just a few streets.  Such evidence is important because in a time of declining resources for intervention it is more effective to target those resources at areas of most need.

To date, maps of Live Register data are, at best, mapped at the county scale.  The three maps below, in contrast, show the unemployment rate ranked by area for Dublin mapped at Enumerator Area scale (c. 330 households) for 2008, and Live Register recipients for August 2008, and change in the number of recipients between August 08 and February 09, at the new Small Area scale (c. 100-120 households) for the Ballyfermot/Chapelizod Partnership Area.

Unemployment Dublin EA scale 2008

Live Register recipients Aug 08

Live register recipients increase Aug 08 to Feb 09

In the first map, the areas that are shaded dark brown are in the top decile for unemployment rate.  In the second map, the areas shaded red have the highest numbers of claimants.  With respect to the third map, the areas in red are those that have experienced significant increases in Live Register claimants, whereas those in dark blue show places where people up to Feb 09 have so far retained their jobs.  In general, what the map shows is that existing areas of high numbers of claimants and the areas immediately surrounding them are those areas gaining the most new claimants and that those areas with low numbers of claimants remain relatively low.  In this case, it is in parts of Ballyfermot that claimants have grown, whereas Chapelizod weathers the storm quite well, reflecting the different labour markets that their respective inhabitants are/were employed in.

The study was undertaken by NIRSA working with Ballyfermot/Chapelizod and Northside Partnerships and the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA) and was published by Dublin City Council earlier in the year.  Neighbourhood maps were created for all forms of Live Register claims at the new Small Area scale.  These Small Areas, created by the National Centre for Geocomputation for Ordnance Survey Ireland, will form the micro-geography for the 2011 census.

At present the research remains a one-off pilot study, but it does highlight two things: 1) the geography of unemployment, and the recession in general, is highly uneven and is not affecting all areas equally; 2) that the evidence base for making key policy decisions would be significantly enhanced by these kinds of data.

Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin

Walking around a flooded Carrick-on-Shannon it’s easy to come to the conclusion that 2009 was an Annus Mirabilis for County Leitrim.  On so many fronts the county has been badly hit by the recession and has a range of challenges stockpiled for 2010 and beyond.

Leitrim has the smallest population of any county in the Republic, with 28,950 population in 2006 (up from 25,301 in 1991).  Accompanying this modest population growth has been a building boom, with new industrial estates and shops, along with housing estates, added to towns and villages, and a frenzy of one-off housing developments.

This building frenzy nose-dived after the peak of the property boom, but the damage has already been done – the housing vacancy rate is above 30 percent.  In April 2006, housing vacancy in the county was 29.3 percent.  Since then many new properties have been built, and with very low demand few have been occupied.  Whilst the growth in housing and industrial units to large degree mirrored population growth, it outpaced demand driven by tax 23 incentive developments (through the Rural Renewal Scheme introduced in the Finance Act 1998) and a strong pro-growth strategy in an area that was only ever likely to sustain relatively weak growth given its peripheral location to major urban centres, its population make-up, and its indigenous economic base.

Animation of new housing growth in Leitrim since 2003 in 1km grid squares

What this means is that the county has a massive oversupply of housing and industrial units that, even with sustained growth (and this is unlikely for at least a few years, possibly longer), will take many years to fill.  The result has been plummeting house prices, with a significant fall in asking price and the second lowest average price for homes in the country after Longford (according to daft.ie average asking prices in Leitrim are currently in the region of €181,285, which represents a year-on year fall of 18%, and a 28% fall from peak prices) and the creation of a small number of ghost estates (for example in Cootehall and the grounds of Kilronan Hotel).  For those that bought property post 2003 (and perhaps earlier) this will mean living with negative equity, and probably doing so for quite some time.

In addition, cuts in funding from central government have meant the curtailing of many social schemes and to the halting of local infrastructural projects such as road improvements.  The county is particular vulnerable to further cuts due to the division of the Leitrim constituency into two new constituencies – Sligo-North Leitrim and Roscommon-South Leitrim – for the 2007 election which leaves Leitrim with no locally based TD.  Moreover, the county would be highly vulnerable if the An Bord Snip (2009) proposal to merge county councils to gain economies of scale where implemented.

To add to Leitrim’s woes, claimants on the Live Register have more than trebled from a low of 1040 people in April to 2006 to 3482 in October 2009 (a 235% increase).  The national unemployment rate for the second quarter was 12% (males 15.1% and females 8.1%), with a rate of 13.4% for the Border region (the finest spatial resolution available).  In addition, for those working in agriculture in what is a largely rural county, the CSO has recently reported that farm operating surpluses are down by 30.3% in 2009, on top of a fall of 10.9% in 2008.

Unemployment has the potential to rise further and some parts of the county are prospectively quite vulnerable to a significant increase given the reliance on a small number of large employers that also help maintain the broader local economy.  For example, in the south of the county, Bank of America and Masonite are two major employers and any job losses in these cases will have serious ripples throughout the area.

As a border county Leitrim is losing some retail revenue to Fermanagh.  Another CSO report details that 41% of border residents shopped in the North between July 2008 and June 2009, a fair number making fairly regular trips.  Another indicator of consumer confidence is reflected in new car registrations which for January and February, 2009, nose-dived (leading, for example, to Casey’s Ford garage in Carrick on Shannon closing).

Carrick on Shannon flooding

Then to cap, what has been a pretty awful year, the unprecedented rainfall of November led to the River Shannon bursting its banks and flooding large parts of Carrick-on-Shannon, Cootehall, and Leitrim Village.  It has to be said that the devastation that followed seemed almost inevitable given that much of the recent development had taken place on the Shannon’s floodplains.  Nevertheless, for a struggling economy it was a bitter blow that will require millions of euro of state investment in flood management to address.

Leitrim people are a resilient and proud bunch, and while the recession will take its toll, they’ll continue to get on with life.  It would have been a damn sight easier though without the woes of 2009.

Prime development land?

Declan Curran, Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin