Jobless total at lowest for four years
Number on the Live Register drops below 400,000 for first time since May 2009
Enda Kenny said he was confident Ireland’s banks would pass the European Central Bank’s stress tests. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg
Jobless figures to be released today will show the total number of people on the Live Register has dropped below 400,000 for the first time in more than four years.
The figures from the Central Statistics Office are expected to show a drop of more than 10,000 people claiming jobseeker’s allowance since last month.
The new unadjusted figure is just under 397,000, compared with 408,670 last month and it continues the downward trend in evidence since July when there were 442,000 people claiming jobless benefits.
The last time the figure was below 400,000 was in May 2009, and the Government is hoping latest figures confirm the number of jobs is growing.
Ministers are increasingly confident the jobless figures and a pick-up in retail spending over the past few months signify that the growth target of 2 per cent next year is realistic.
The lower unemployment figures will also help the budgetary arithmetic for this year.
The employment data follows indications from Taoiseach Enda Kenny that “strong” data is emerging in an ongoing examination of the banks in advance of the exit from the bailout in December. Mr Kenny also expressed confidence that they will pass a major pan-European stress test by the European Central Bank next year. He told the CNBC business television channel: “I am confident that they’re well-capitalised and that they will pass that.”
With the Coalition deeply reluctant to undertake tough new fiscal policy conditions in return for a post-bailout credit line, the possibility of “minimalist” aid from Ireland’s sponsors is now under discussion. One option under examination is for the EU authorities and the IMF to make a public declaration of their willingness to assist Ireland in the event of market turmoil. This would not involve the signing of formal contracts.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan briefed the Cabinet yesterday on his recent meetings with the IMF, ECB and the European Commission.
The Government spokesman declined to say whether the Cabinet was leaning in favour of an emergency credit line or more likely to go it alone on the debt markets.
Separately, a Government source said a consensus was emerging in the Department of Finance against the credit line option. The source said this was the majority stance, a reverse of the situation just weeks ago. “There’s a more aggressive view that we just don’t need this, that we can paddle our own canoe really,” the source said.