Number of jobless below 400,000 for first time since 2009
October sees 16th consecutive monthly decline in numbers claiming welfare benefits
A file image of people queuing outside the Bishop Street Social Welfare Office in Dublin. The latest CSO Live Register figures show a continuing decline in the numbers claiming welfare benefits. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
Ireland’s unemployment rate continued to fall during the month of October, dipping below the 400,000 mark for the first time in four years but still “unacceptably high”.
Figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed a monthly drop from 13.3 per cent to 13.2 per cent, a 16th consecutive decrease.
The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton tentatively welcomed the results, saying that while positive, things were not improving at quite the pace she would like.
“It still means that unemployment is unacceptably high but this month during October the register fell below 400,000 people for the first time in four years and that is good news,” she said.
“It is decreasing [although] not as quickly as we would like for the people affected and their families and their communities but it is going at last in the right direction.”
The live register has recorded a monthly decrease in the number of people claiming welfare benefits of 3,700, reducing the seasonally adjusted total to 409,900.
In unadjusted terms, there were 396,500 people signing on the register during October - down 23,700 in the year - showing that for the first time since May, 2009 the figure has fallen below the 400,000 threshold.
The unemployment rate includes part-time and seasonal workers as well as those on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The decline in unemployment is also viewed as a reflection of the 76,000 people participating in various forms of back-to-work schemes, while the specter of emigration remains strongly to the fore.
Addressing the latter on RTE radio today, Ms Burton said: “Emigration is a worry and a concern, particularly in a lot of rural areas of the country.
“But the actual number of people indicating that they are closing their claim on the live register so far in the first nine months of this year has been about 11,000 people compared with about 15,000 people for last year, so it’s actually on the decline.
“It is still very, very significant and I know it is worrying for the individuals and for their parents and for local communities.”
Reacting to the figures, Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers said that recent official estimates showed increased emigration has been a key factor in contributing to the drop in unemployment over the past year.
“Though in fairness, employment conditions generally have improved in recent months,” he said.
“Having peaked at 15.1 per cent in February 2012, it has since then started to decline steadily, a sign that the labour market is on the road to recovery, though the jobless remains a lot higher than desirable.”
Concerns also continue around the long term unemployed, which while decreasing from 188,881 in September to 182,401, remains “far too high for comfort”.
“The bulk of the annual increase in the April to June period was in full-time rather than part-time jobs,” he said.
“Slowly but surely, overall labour market trends are getting better, though it is still likely to be a few years before the jobless rate is back in single digits.”
Meanwhile, John Stewart of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) warned that some people were not being counted.
“There are people who are not making the transition from Jobseekers Benefit to Jobseekers Allowance,” he said.
“These people have become the invisible unemployed, unable to access services and supports to address their unemployment because they are not in receipt of a payment.”