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The WDC will be publishing its next report in its series of regional labour market analyses Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region 2022 in the Autumn. This will document in detail, travel to work patterns and labour catchments across the Western Region based on Census 2022. Here we highlight some overall changes that have occurred in the last intercensal period 2016-2022.

Labour catchments are that area from which a town draws most of its labour supply. This usually extends beyond town boundaries and often across county boundaries. For example, the Galway city labour catchment extends into parts of County Mayo. Capturing the data from the labour catchment provides a more accurate assessment of the labour supply available in a centre, information particularly useful for employers. The information is also useful from a transport planning perspective, identifying key patterns of travel for work.

The table below shows the largest town labour catchments in the Western Region, based on data from Census 2022 and Census 2016. The numbers of resident workers in each catchment in 2016 and 2022 are displayed in the first two columns. They are ordered according to the size in 2022. The next two columns show the change in the size of each labour catchment, by number and percentage, between 2016 and 2022. The final three columns display the relative rank in terms of numeric size in 2006, 2016 and 2022.

Unsurprisingly, the Galway city labour catchment is by far the largest and has been so on each occasion. Between 2016 and 2022 it grew by over a quarter (25.8%), over 18,000 workers to 88,253. This accounted for 52% of the overall growth in the number of resident workers across all labour catchments in the Western Region – see final row total[1].

Table 1. Primary labour catchments in the Western Region by size in 2016 and 2022

Labour Catchment Resident Workers Change 2016-2022 Size Ranking
2016 2022 Number % 2006 2016 2022
Galway city & Sub 70,170 88,253 18,083 25.8% 1 1 1
Sligo 19,717 24,382 4,665 23.7% 3 2 2
Letterkenny 21,834 23,503 1,669 7.6% 4 4 3
Ennis 21,409 22,342 933 4.4% 2 3 4
Castlebar 13,931 16,992 3,061 22.0% 5 5 5
Limerick city & sub (part) 9,647 10,630 983 10.2% 6 6 6
Ballina 9,034 9,875 841 9.3% 7 7 7
Roscommon 7,235 9,168 1933 26.7% 8 9 8
Westport 6,380 7,056 676 10.6% 11 10 9
Carrick-on-Shannon 7,785 6,600 -1185 -15.2% 9 8 10
Total (All Catchments) 260,261 294,878 34,617 13.3%

Source: CSO POWSCAR 2016, 2022, WDC 2024 (forthcoming). These figures relate to those with a known work destination and includes those who work from home. However, it does not include those with a ‘blank’ destination or those classed as being ‘mobile’ workers.

The Sligo town labour catchment is the 2nd largest in 2022, with over 24,000 resident workers. The Sligo labour catchment had one of the fastest growth rates in the intercensal period, increasing by 23.7%.

The Letterkenny town labour catchment was the 3rd largest in 2022 with 23,500 resident workers. It grew by 7.6% since 2016 and moved from 4th largest in 2016 to 3rd in 2022.

The Ennis labour catchment had one of the smallest growth rates in the region, recording 4.4% which is well below the growth in all labour catchments of 13.3%. The Ennis labour catchment had just over 22,300 resident workers in 2022, the fourth largest in size across the region. The Ennis labour catchment size ranking has fallen from 2nd in 2006, to 3rd in 2016 to 4th in 2022.

There are various reasons as to why a town’s labour catchment may not be increasing much in size. Apart from the overall levels of employment growth within a town’s catchment the relative performance of catchments adjacent to it can be important factors. This is the case for Ennis where since 2016, the towns of Ennistymon and Lahinch to the east experienced very strong demographic and economic growth. Similarly to the south, very strong job growth in both Limerick City and the Shannon area resulted in these locations becoming more important destinations for resident workers in County Clare than before. New employment opportunities in adjacent centres can alter the relative size of labour catchments.

Castlebar is the fifth largest labour catchment in the Western Region with nearly 17,000 resident workers in 2022. It retained this 5th position throughout the period 2006-2022. It recorded one of the largest growth rates of all catchments, growing by 22% since 2016.

In terms of size, in 6th place is part of Limerick city & Suburbs.

The Mayo town of Ballina is the 7th largest labour catchment in the Western Region, growing by 9.3% between 2016 and 2022 with close to 10,000 resident workers.

Roscommon town labour catchment is the 8th largest catchment in the Western Region, up from its ranking of 9th place in 2016. It had the highest growth rate of the principal catchments, it grew by 1,933 resident workers or 26.7% between 2016 and 2022.

Westport town labour catchment is the 9th largest labour catchment growing by 10.6% (or 670) since 2016 when it was ranked 10th.

The largest catchment in Co. Leitrim, the Carrick-on-Shannon labour catchment was the 10th largest in the region down from 8th in 2016. It was the only labour catchment in the top 10 that recorded a decline in numbers. This can be accounted for a decline in some employment in the town – for example the MBNA/Avant side which had been a huge employer in the town continued to shed employment. Another factor is a growth in employment outside the town. In 2022 the towns of Mohill and Ballinamore had their own distinct labour catchments, whereas in 2016 they were part of the Carrick-on-Shannon catchment.

The full report which will be available in the Autumn will contain detailed analyses and maps of travel to work patterns across the Western Region. The report will contain labour market profiles of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon. Further blogposts on aspects of the data will be available here.


Deirdre Frost

[1] The vast majority of EDs in the Western Region were linked to towns within the West­ern Region with the exception of a number of EDs along the southern and eastern border of the Western Region. These were primarily linked to employment destinations such Limerick City, Athlone, Longford Town and Derry (county). A smaller number of external flows are also linked to employment destinations in Cavan and Tullamore.