The year 2020 saw net job losses in Enterprise Ireland-backed companies, despite the creation of 16,496 new roles.
Total employment in companies supported by Enterprise Ireland stood at 220,613 at the end of 2020.
The economic development agency reported net job losses of 872 in 2020, as 17,368 jobs were lost that year.
The group said €124 million in Covid-19 funding under the Sustaining Enterprise Fund aided 418 companies and 17,710 jobs across the country during the pandemic.
Speaking at the launch of Enterprise Ireland’s employment report on Monday, Tánaiste and Minister for Employment Leo Varadkar said Irish businesses had faced “remarkable challenges” in 2020.
“We know that some sectors were more seriously affected than others. Among Enterprise Ireland client companies we can see that there has actually been significant employment growth among their clients in some areas such as life sciences, cleantech and construction,” Mr Varadkar said.
“Although I know that those sectors, especially construction, have also seen very serious disruption over the past year too,” he added.
Enterprise Ireland reported several sectors saw overall job losses, including its clients in the food sector who experienced a contraction of 1.5 per cent.
Enterprise Ireland CEO, Julie Sinnamon, said last year saw Irish enterprise face the “dual threats” of Covid-19 and Brexit.
“Following the introduction of new liquidity measures from Government in April and in the July Jobs Stimulus, our priority was to help Irish companies to survive and sustain jobs,” Ms Sinnamon said.
Along with its Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the group approved €7.6 million to support 1,000 customs roles to help Irish exporters to the UK comply with new Brexit customs rules.
Ms Sinnamon said the group now planned to help exporters to the UK handle new customs procedures, ensure they remain competitive in the UK, and identify opportunities for growth in the UK market, Europe and beyond.
2021 will be a critical year for Irish enterprise
The State agency also set out priorities for 2021, which include increasing employment by 1,387 jobs, supporting a recovery in exports with a “continued focus on market diversification”, and increasing the level of research and development investment by Irish companies to €1.25 billion.
“Another priority area for 2021 is to maximise the number of start-up companies, increase the number of high growth clients achieving scale and expand the number of exporting companies,” Ms Sinnamon said.
“Having strong, innovative, regionally based exporting companies is vital to balanced economic development and sustaining and creating high value jobs into the future.
“2021 will be a critical year for Irish enterprise and we will work closely with Irish businesses to help them accelerate the recovery”.
The Enterprise Ireland End of Year Statement 2020 report is available here.