State’s jobless rate stays at 13-year low of 4.8%

CSO figures show unemployment in Republic remains below euro zone average

Global supply chains may  be disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak and feed through to the labour market. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

Global supply chains may be disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak and feed through to the labour market. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

 

The Republic’s unemployment rate was unchanged at a near 13-year low of 4.8 per cent in February.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show the number of workers classified as unemployed last month was 120,100.

This was marginally up on the previous month but not enough to change the headline rate.

The total compares to 356,600 in February 2012, when the headline rate was 16 per cent.

The 4.8 per cent rate was also nearly three percentage points lower than the euro zone average of 7.4 per cent.

“The latest unemployment figures reflect a tentative start to the year for the labour market,” Grant Thornton Ireland’s chief economist Andrew Webb said.

“Periods of uncertainty towards the end of 2019, which saw consumer and business sentiment point lower are working their way through to labour market outcomes,” he said.

However, he warned uncertainty was likely to increase again with the coronavirus outbreak.

“There are already anecdotal stories emerging of the tourism sector taking a significant blow and global supply chains being interrupted,” he said.

“With many forecasters revising their forecasts, the downside risks to economic performance are mounting,” he added.

Employment total

The CSO’s latest Labour Force Survey – the official data source for employment – show a record 2.36 million people had jobs in the Republic in the last three months of 2019.

While employment has risen sharply in recent years, the State has a bigger population and a larger workforce now than in 2007 and employment and participation rates are still below the pre-crash levels.

“The unemployment rate has remained around the 5 per cent mark for a little while now and remains much lower than the euro zone average of 7.4 per cent,”

said Eoin Clarke of price comparison site Switcher.ie.

“The big challenge for the Irish government will be to maintain or reduce the rate even further, especially given the looming threat of coronavirus that has already started having an economic impact across Europe, ” he said.

While 4.8 per cent is historically a very low unemployment rate in Ireland, “the danger is we may start to see this creep up in the coming months once the impact of coronavirus starts to be felt”.

Separately Eurostat said the euro zone unemployment rate was 7.4 per cent in January, again as expected and holding unchanged from December at the lowest rate recorded since May 2008. It also noted that euro zone consumer prices rose more slowly in February than in January, as expected, as the spread of the coronavirus around the world depressed oil prices.

Prices rose 1.2 per cent year-on-year after a 1.4 per cent rise in the previous month.