Strong jobs rise boosts economic growth prospects

Numbers at work rises by 3.3% in 2016 to over two million

The unemployment rate fell from 7.8 per cent to 7.1 per cent over the quarter when seasonally adjusted to 154,900. Photograph: Getty

The unemployment rate fell from 7.8 per cent to 7.1 per cent over the quarter when seasonally adjusted to 154,900. Photograph: Getty


The economy entered 2017 growing strongly, with the latest official jobs figures showing that total employment rose by 65,100 last year. The stronger-than-expected figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) have led some forecasters to increase their predictions for jobs growth this year, with the unemployment rate expected to continue falling towards 6 per cent.

The number of people in employment rose by 3.3 per cent last year to 2.04 million, the quarterly national household survey figures from the CSO show.

When adjusted for seasonal factors, employment was up 0.8 per cent or 16,700 in the final three months of 2016, compared to the previous quarter.The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for December has also been revised down from 7.2 per cent to 6.9 per cent.

Employment rose in all sectors during the fourth quarter but the largest rise was in construction, which was up 9.2 per cent against the same period a year earlier. There was also a strong 5.7 per cent rise in employment in the professional, scientific and technical activities.

However, notably, job numbers increased in all sectors and in all regions of the country. Also, there was a 72,000 rise in full-time employment and a fall in part-time employment, suggesting that employers are moving staff from part-time to full-time work.

KBC Bank, in a comment on the CSO data, said the figures suggested the economy had entered 2017 with “substantial and broadly-based forward momentum.” Growth in the labour force - which rose by 1.2 per cent over the year - indicated that more people are returning to work here from abroad, they said. The bank increased its forecast for jobs growth this year from 2 to 2.5 per cent.

Meanwhile Davy Stockbrokers expect a 2.3 per cent rise in employment this year and say that they expect unemployment to fall “towards 6 per cent” this year.

Merrion Stockbrokers chief economist Alan McQuaid said although emigration has been a factor in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the latest figures show the labour market has improved dramatically over the past few years.He noted that the most recent migration estimates showed net inward migration of 3,100 in the year to April last as against net outward migration of 11,600 in 2015, and the first positive figure since 2009. Mr McQuaid said he expected to see a net jobs rise of about 45,000 in 2017.

Unemployment was down by 40,000 or 21.4 per cent on an annual basis to 147,000, the CSO figures show. The unemployment rate fell from 7.8 per cent to 7.1 per cent over the quarter when seasonally adjusted to 154,900. This is the lowest rate since 2008 when there were 127,200 people out of work.

It is also the 18th quarter in succession where unemployment has declined on an annual basis.

Long-term unemployment, which covers those who have not worked for one year or more, accounted for 54 per cent of the total number of people unemployed in the fourth quarter.

The long-term unemployment rate fell to 3.6 per cent from 4.7 per cent. There were 79,700 long-term unemployed recorded in the fourth quarter.

The number of self-employed people increased marginally over the year to 321,400.

At the official briefing on Tuesday, Brian Ring, senior statistician with the CSO said the organisation will be including an additional sample based on the 2011 Census into the quarterly national household survey in the coming months.

John FitzGerald of the ESRI voiced concern over the plan, noting that following the introduction of a new sample in 2013 it was impossible to fully compare employment figures across some sectors, notably agriculture, to previous years.

“We don’t know where employment is in each sector today relative to where it was versus 2010, which is very serious. They are now going to introduce a new sample and there is a concern that at a time of Brexit we will not have a consistent series of figures that can tell us how sectors are being affected,” he said.