Rise in jobs figures signals start of recovery
Employment figures published yesterday give the strongest indication in half a decade that economic recovery has begun. For the first time since the recession started in 2008, the numbers at work have risen over a six month period. In the final quarter of the year, 1.85 million people were in jobs, a rise of 6,500 on three months earlier according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Central Statistics Office.
Revisions to the third quarter data show that employment growth was also recorded in that period. Those revisions put the net increase in employment in the third quarter at 2,200.
It is the first time since employment began to contract in 2008 that jobs growth has been recorded in two consecutive quarters. Sectorally, retail, information technology, scientific activities, construction, finance and real estate all recorded at least two consecutive quarters of employment growth.
By region, Dublin and the south-west accounted for almost all of the Irish economy’s expansion in employment in the second half of last year. Both regions also recorded the State’s lowest unemployment rates as of the final quarter of 2012. While these regions had jobless rates of below 12 per cent, the labour market in the southeast remains the worst affected, with unemployment at almost 19 per cent.
That most of the increase in employment was accounted for by part-time rather than full-time jobs took some of the shine off yesterday’s numbers.
The numbers formally unemployed declined by more than 12,000 between the third and fourth quarters of last year.
The numbers unemployed stood at 303,500 in the final three months of last year. That amounts to 14.2 per cent of the labour force.
The gradual decline in the unemployment rate has been on-going for a year. It peaked at 15 per cent at the beginning of 2012. The momentum in the labour market in the second half of last year appears to have continued into 2013. Separate figures on the jobless benefit claimant count, also published yesterday by the CSO, show that the numbers in receipt of benefits continued to fall in the first two months of the year.
In February, 428,000 people were receiving unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis. This is more than 20,000 fewer than the peak figures, reached 18 months ago.
Most of the decline in the numbers claiming jobless benefits was accounted for by those under 25 signing off the Live Register. Although yesterday’s figures do not estimate migration patterns, it is likely that a rise in emigration is the cause of a considerable proportion of the overall decline.
Isme chief executive Mark Fielding described the “actual increase” in employment during the year as “paltry”.
“It is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the ambitious plan to have 100,000 additional people in work by 2016.”
Ibec senior economist Reetta Suonperä welcomed the figures and said there were “increasing signs of stabilisation” in the labour market. She added it was “encouraging” that figures showed jobs in the private sector had grown by 7,000.