Jobless rate falls but more than 200,000 still out of work

Data shows economy continues to create jobs at a steady rate as recovery continues

Ireland had an unemployment rate of just 4.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2007, but that ratepeaked at 15.1 per cent in 2012. In the first quarter of 2015, it dropped to 9.9 per cent.

Ireland had an unemployment rate of just 4.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2007, but that ratepeaked at 15.1 per cent in 2012. In the first quarter of 2015, it dropped to 9.9 per cent.

 

New data show Ireland’s unemployment rate fell to 9.9 per cent in the first quarter of the year, the first time since the fateful year of 2008 that the rate came in below 10 per cent. This represents a key psychological threshold, although the figures show that more than 200,000 people are still without work.

The good news here is that the economy continues to create jobs at a steady clip. In the year to March, Central Statistics data indicates 41,300 jobs were created and the number people unemployed dropped by 45,300. Employment increased by 12,500 in the first quarter of the year on a seasonally adjusted basis, following on from an increase of 13,000 in the final quarter of 2014 .

All of this is in line with trend growth since the recovery began, with 11 successive quarters of annualised decline in unemployment bringing the rate down from the 15.1 per cent reached at the very height of the jobs crisis in the first quarter of 2012.

The sweep of figures is salutory. Ireland had an unemployment rate of just 4.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2007, when the emergence of distress in the US subprime mortgage market was but a distant sign of woe to come. Conditions changed rather suddenly as the economy stalled and the banking sector teetered on the brink. Ireland’s unemployment rate doubled between 2008 and 2009, as the official rate advanced to 10.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2009 from 5 per cent only one year previously. The annual decrease in the number of employed people in that single year was 158,500, a terrible toll .

It is in the nature of economic crises that recovery takes longer to bed down than the precipitous losses endured in a crash. Thus the rate at which jobs are being created now does not match the sickening speed at which they were lost when Ireland was on the rocks. But that is not to take from the signs that recovery is deepening.

For one thing, the latest CSO data indicates that the rate of long-term unemployment declined to 5.9 per cent in the first months of 2015 from 7.3 per cent a year earlier. For another, the data shows that more full-time jobs are being created now than part-time posts. The increase in full-time employment was 52,100 and there was a decrease in part-time employment. The benefit of all this is clear. More people at work means more people spending, more paying tax and fewer drawing payments.

These figures also provide a glimpse into the shape of recovery. The largest rates of employment increase were recorded in the construction sector, where 19,600 jobs were created, and in the financial, insurance and real estate activities, where employment is up by 4,600. At the same time, the greatest rate of decline was recorded in professional, scientific and technical activities, where the number working dclined by 6,400.

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