Boost for Government as employment hits highest level in 7 years

Quarterly National Household Survey puts overall jobless rate at 9.1 per cent


The Government received a timely boost ahead of Friday’s general election with official figures showing employment at its highest level in seven years.

The latest Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) indicated employment across all sectors rose by 44,100 last year, a growth rate of 2.3 per cent.

This brought overall employment in the State to 1.98 million, its highest level since the first quarter of 2009.

The figures show employment increased by 4,700 (0.2 per cent) in the final quarter of 2015.

However, this represented a slowdown in the rate of employment growth on the three previous quarters.

The survey, considered the most accurate barometer of conditions in the labour market, shows the State’s overall jobless rate dropped to another six-year low of 9.1 per cent at the end of last year.

In terms of regions, Dublin had the lowest unemployment rate of 7.6 per cent while the Midlands and the West had rates of 10.9 per cent and 10.6 per cent.

The figures show recovery moving onto a broader geographic footing with the numbers at work increasing in seven of eight geographic regions compared to five out of eight in 2014. The exception last year was the West which saw a decline of 0.6 per cent.

Employment increased in 12 of the 14 economic sectors over the year with the largest increase recorded in construction (8.5 per cent).

The greatest decline was recorded in financial, insurance and real estate activities, which fell by 3.9 per cent.

The number of persons classified as long-term unemployed, meanwhile, decreased by 21,300 (17.2 per cent), bringing total long-term unemployment to 102,100.

Nonetheless, the number still accounted for 54.5 per cent of total unemployment, albeit this was marginally lower than the 57.8 per cent recorded a year earlier.

The State’s youth unemployment rate fell from 20.3 per cent to 18.9 per cent over the period.

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton said an annual employment growth rate of 2.3 per cent put Ireland right at the top of international jobs growth tables.

“What is most welcome is the wide range of sectors showing growth and this growth is underpinned by a strong performance by our expert oriented companies,” he said.

“The challenge now is to continue to support our entrepreneurs and workers with continued policies as they continue to grow jobs and get our economy and country back on track,” Mr Bruton added.

KBC Bank economist Austin Hughes said the latest figures show the improvement in the jobs market is continuing and becoming more broadly based across economic sectors.

The weaker pace of growth may reflect statistical ‘noise’ rather than any marked easing in the pace of jobs growth, he said.