The Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) has forecast strong economic growth this year and next and said unemployment should fall to around 9% in 2016.

However, it said that more than 90% of the jobs created last year were in Dublin and the surrounding eastern counties, with employment stagnant or declining in other parts of the country.

The trade union-backed economic institute is forecasting strong economic growth of 3.5% this year and 3% next year.

Good jobs growth and more spending by consumers and businesses is all helping to improve the public finances.

The Nevin Institute said next year’s Budget deficit should be around 1.9%.

But it sid the pattern of employment growth was a concern.

It claimed that 94% of the jobs created last year were in the eastern counties centred on Dublin, while there was no jobs growth in the border counties and employment in the west fell.

A statement from the Department of Jobs said the figures cited by NERI were "at best highly misleading".

The department said: "For example, in 2014, jobs in the south east grew by 7,400 (or 25% of the overall jobs growth), and in the midlands by 2,600 (or 9% of the overall jobs growth).

"Since 2011, every region of the country has grown in employment. The fastest growing regions over that time have not been Dublin or Cork but the south east (9%) and the midlands (8%)."

The statement added: "The Government recognises that some regions are growing faster than others. That is why we are putting in place regional enterprise plans to accelerate employment in every region."

The Nevin Institute also looked at the distribution of earnings in the State and said that while the average hourly wage was €20.63, 30% of employees, around 400,000 people, earned less than the Eurostat low-pay threshold of €12.20 an hour.

This level is calculated at two thirds of the median wage of €18.25 per hour, though this figure dates from 2010, and has not been updated.

It said 25% of employees earned less than the so-called 'living wage' of €11.45 an hour.  Some 345,000 workers fall into this group.  This figure dates from 2014.

Using CSO data, the institute also said that 60% of low-paid employees were women.

Of the total number of low paid, one quarter are employed in the wholesale and retail sector, while one in six are employed in the accommodation and food sector.

The highest risk for low pay was in the agricultural, forestry and fishing sector, where the Nevin Institute said seven in ten fell into this category. 

In the accommodation and food sector, 69% of employees are low paid, while the figure is 60% in the administration and support services sector.

Overall, it said, almost 39% of private sector employees were low paid, while the corresponding figure for the public sector was 10.5%.

The national minimum wage is €8.65 an hour, a figure unchanged since 2007. 

Earlier this year, the Government established a low-pay commission and it will present a review of the minimum wage in July.

While the Nevin Institute said that irrespective of the threshold used, 30% is a big percentage of the employed to fall into the low-paid category.

It cautioned that this had significant policy implications, particularly surrounding precarious employment conditions and the concentration of low pay in households at or below the poverty line, even after tax and social transfers.