The numbers at work in the mid-west region has increased to 239,700 - a record high and up on pre-pandemic levels - but affordable housing across the region is a major issue according to an economic insights report launched by Limerick Chamber.

The unemployment level has dropped to 4.5% this month, lower than the pre pandemic level of 4.9% across its 400 organisations which represents over 50,000 employees.

But statistics on the housing front in Limerick present a bleak picture - 606 homes were built last year in Limerick, just over half of what's needed, and there were only 21 homes available for rent across Limerick city and suburbs last month.

Seán Golden, Chief Economist with Limerick Chamber, along with policy analyst Diarmuid O’Shea who compiled the report said a total of just 606 homes were completed in Limerick last year, 49% short of the supply needed.

In total 1,331 were built across the wider mid-west region of Limerick, Clare and Tipperary, but again this is less than half of the 2,748 that are needed to meet population growth.

A further analysis of the housing figures shows that owner occupiers, typically workers, account for just three of every 10 new homes completed.

The report says its deeply worrying that owner occupiers account for such a small portion of new homes delivered and this needs to be addressed.

New to the report is the Chambers Rental Tracker which found that just 21 homes were available for rent in Limerick city and suburbs for the whole month of April, with an average price rent of €1,677.

It says significant savings can be made with owning a home across the mid-west versus renting with the cost in Limerick city 43% of the cost of renting, rising to 73% in Limerick county, 71% in Clare and 66% in Tipperary.

The Chamber says encouraging businesses to take up vacant units and incentivise conversion of these for residential use is urgently needed - almost a fifth -19.4% - of commercial space in Limerick is vacant with rural towns like Abbeyfeale at 23.6% and Newcastlewest at 21.8% more impacted.

Overall the economic prospects for the region are positive with the cost of living still lower than in Dublin and Cork and the high prevalence of higher education institutions and further education and training bodies is producing a pipeline of well educated young workers for a growing foreign direct investment sector.

But the housing issues, like elsewhere in the country must be addressed.