Jobless rate up to 14.4% in third quarter


THE DECLINE in the number of people at work in the Irish economy in the third quarter of the year was the biggest in two years, according to the Central Statistics Office.

When adjusted for volatile seasonal factors, 1,794,000 people were employed in the July-September period, a decline of more than 20,000 on the previous quarter.

The figures dash hopes that the shake out in the labour market has come to an end. In the April-June period of 2011, the quarter on quarter seasonally adjusted decline in employment was 4,100, the smallest such fall since the recession began. Yesterday’s figures show that the most recent quarterly decline was five times larger.

This brings the cumulative decline in employment since jobs numbers peaked at the end of 2007 to 347,000. That amounts to a decline of more than 16 per cent and is the largest such contraction in employment among the 34 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The figures are contained in the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey, which is the most comprehensive measure of employment and unemployment in the economy.

Sectorally, the largest quarterly declines in employment in the July-September period took place in the agriculture, food and fishing industry, where 5,000 jobs were lost in just three months. In the latest quarter 80,500 people were at work in the sector – a record low and down 37,000 in just two and a half years.

The second largest loss of jobs took place in the “financial, insurance and real estate” sector. Between the second and third quarters seasonally adjusted employment in the sector fell by 4,600, to stand at 98,100.

Despite the severity of the property bust and banking crisis, employment in this sector is little changed from the height of the boom.

Construction jobs, by contrast, bucked the trend in the third quarter of this year, recording their first seasonally adjusted increase since the recession began. Total employment in the sector rose by 1,200 on the quarter to stand at 107,500. At the height of the boom, 272,000 were employed in construction.

The distribution sector also added jobs in the third quarter, expanding employment by 1,100. The wholesale and retail sector is the largest sectoral employer, accounting for 266,000 jobs in the third quarter.

The large quarterly decline in total employment was only partially reflected in the jobless numbers, which rose by 3,600. This is explained by a shrinking labour force. Many of those losing jobs are leaving the labour force, with emigration accounting for much of the change.

The rate of unemployment rose from 14.2 per cent of the labour force in the second quarter of the year to 14.4 per cent in the third quarter.

More timely monthly figures show that the rate of joblessness drifted up further into the fourth quarter, reaching 14.5 per cent in November.

An ever larger percentage of the total number of unemployed has been out of work for a year or longer. In the third quarter, 56 per cent of the 303,000 jobless had been unemployed for more than a year. As recently as two years ago only one in four of the unemployed had been out for one year or more.

Young people continue to bear the brunt of the jobs crisis. By age group, joblessness is highest among 15-19-year-olds, standing at 39 per cent in the third quarter. The rate falls progressively, with the lowest rate of unemployment among the 60-64-year-olds, at 8.8 per cent.

The rate of male unemployment, at 17.6 per cent in the third quarter, remains significantly above that of female unemployment, which stood at 11 per cent.