Live Register numbers fall again in September

Latest CSO figures suggest unemployment rate is now 13.3 per cent

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton briefed fellow Cabinet ministers  on the latest drop in the Live Register figures yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke/Irish Times

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton briefed fellow Cabinet ministers on the latest drop in the Live Register figures yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke/Irish Times

Wed, Oct 2, 2013, 15:10

Ireland’s unemployment rate fell to 13.3 per cent last month, its lowest level in more than three and a half years, in a welcome boost for the Government ahead of the Budget.

However, experts warned the figures were being masked by high levels of emigration and the limited periods people are able to sign on.

The latest Live Register figures showed the number of people claiming unemployment benefits dropped by 1,800 in September, the 15th successive monthly decline.

This brought the overall number of claimants down to 414,300 at the end of September, giving a standardised rate of unemployment of 13.3 per cent, down from 13.4 per cent in August.

The unemployment rate, based on the Live Register which includes part-time and seasonal workers as well as those on Jobseeker’s Allowance, has declined steadily since its post-crash peak of 15.1 per cent in February last year.

Over the past 12 months, the number on the register has dropped by 20,665.

However, the number of long-term claimants - those signing on for more than a year – remains stubbornly high, accounting for 46.2 per cent of the total.

In September, the number of long-term claimants was 188,881, down 2 per cent (3,897) on an annual basis.

During the year, the number of male long-term claimants decreased by 4.6 per cent, but the number of long-term female claimants rose by 4.2 per cent.

Among EU member states, only Slovakia has a higher rate of long-term unemployment than Ireland.

Over the past 12 months, the number of under 25s signing on fell by 10.2 per cent (7,515), which some experts tied to the high rate of emigration.

On an unadjusted basis, which includes the impact of seasonal factors like the return of college students, the figures showed there was a reduction of 26,610 in the number of people on the register over the year, bringing the total to 408,670.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said while the numbers out of work were still far too high, the Government was making “sustained and welcome progress”.

“Since coming to office, I have focused on transforming the department from the passive benefits provider of old to an active, engaged and focused employment service.”

She predicted the Live Register would fall beneath 400,000 later this year, for the first time since May 2009.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore described the figures as very good news, adding “we need to see it continued”.

However, the John Stewart of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said: “If the on-going fall in the register is as a result of unemployed people going back to work then this is a very positive development for those individuals and their families.”

“However, there are likely to be a number of different factors at play here including the impact of emigration and also people not making the transition from Jobseekers Benefit to the means tested Jobseekers Allowance.”

Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers said although emigration had clearly been a factor in bringing the unemployment down, the figures were nonetheless “encouraging”.

“Slowly but surely, overall labour market trends are getting better, though it is still likely to be a number of years before the jobless rate is back in single digits,” he added.

Mark Fielding of Isme, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association warned that although figures had improved slightly, a reversal in the 9 per cent VAT rate, as proposed by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, would reverse the employment gains made so far.