Employment rises for first time in four years at end of 2011


THE NUMBER of jobs in the economy rose strongly in the final three months of 2011, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The surprise increase on the previous quarter, of 0.6 per cent, was the first time employment had grown in four years.

The figures, which are adjusted to take account of seasonal factors, show that 1,807,000 people were at work in the fourth quarter, up by 10,000 on three months earlier. The increase follows 15 consecutive quarters of falling employment in the economy.

Less positively, the CSO revised the unemployment rate upwards. Last week, when it published the latest live register figures, it had put the jobless rate in the final quarter of last year at 14.2 per cent of the workforce. Following the incorporation of the latest comprehensive survey data, it now estimates the rate was 14.6 per cent.

The most up to date figures (for February) were also revised. Last week the CSO put the rate of joblessness last month at 14.2 per cent. It now says the rate was 14.4 per cent.

Six of the 13 sectors for which figures are available registered quarterly growth in employment, with the IT and administration sectors growing most strongly.

The financial, insurance and real estate sector experienced the third strongest growth rate over the quarter.

The sectors suffering the largest percentage declines in employment in the final three months of last year were education and transport.

Other breakdowns of the figures, which are not seasonally adjusted, show that the decline in the numbers working for themselves continued to fall at the end of last year.

The numbers of self-employed who employ others declined by 1,200, to 86,400 in the final quarter of the year. The rapid rate of decline showed no sign of slowing in the final quarter of 2011. It brought the decline since the end of 2007 to 32 per cent.

For the first time since 2003 the numbers of self-employed who do not employ others fell below 200,000.

A decline of 4,600 people in this category took place in just three months, to bring the total to 199,400 at the end of last year.

At its peak in 2008 more than 240,000 people worked for themselves without employing others. The decline since then amounts to 17 per cent, broadly in line with the fall in total employment across the economy.

In the final quarter 385,600 foreign nationals over the age of 15 were resident in Ireland.

The rate of unemployment among foreigners was slightly over 17 per cent.

Just under 14 per cent of Irish nationals were unemployed.

Yesterday’s release from the CSO includes the latest comparative data from other EU states relating to the third quarter of last year.

Ireland’s unemployment was the third highest among the 27 countries, with the Spanish rate highest and Greece in second place.