The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) has published its latest Quarterly Economic Outlook which forecasts growth of 4.2% for 2017 and 3.2% in 2018.
The group, which represents Irish businesses and works to promote their interests, believes a strong labour market will support the resilience of the domestic economy. However, trading challenges as a result of the EU Referendum will continue for exporters. Research conducted by Ibec shows some counties are five times more reliant on referendum-exposed industries than Dublin.
The analysis shows13.2% or roughly 243,000 workers of the employed population, work in the most exposed sectors such as agri-food and beverages, tourism, transport and traditional manufacturing.
The counties with the highest exposure are Cavan (28%), Monaghan (27%), Kerry (22%) and Longford (21%) with over one in five workers in each of those counties employed in exposed sectors.
As expected, exposure is lowest in urban areas, with the least exposed counties including Cork and Galway along with the four Dublin local authorities and their surrounding counties.
Ibec's Head of Tax and Fiscal Policy, Gerard Brady, said: "The Irish economy is now in a strong position with forecasts showing the pace of employment growth will run above 3% this year for the first time since 2007."
Ibec noted that indigenous exports to the UK have recovered from some instability in the first half of the year, but there will be “increased volatility” as the year goes on, with sterling depreciating once more since the UK election.
The group said: “No matter what the outcome, [the EU Referendum] will hurt both Ireland's indigenous exporters and rural regions disproportionately.” To help combat this, the group is calling for Budget 2018 to include measures to protect these vulnerable sectors.
Brady added: "The business substance within the private sector is driving this growth with business employment, excluding in the agriculture sector and the self-employed, up by 5.2% in Q1. We expect unemployment will be below 6% by the end of the year."