Unemployment at lowest level since before bank guarantee

Latest figures from Central Statistics Office show youth unemployment remains high

A queue for unemployment benefit outside Bishop Street Social Welfare Office in Dublin. Photograph: Frank Miller /	THE IRISH TIMES

A queue for unemployment benefit outside Bishop Street Social Welfare Office in Dublin. Photograph: Frank Miller / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Unemployment is at its lowest level since the months leading up to the bank guarantee, the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

The figures show the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was down almost 1 per cent to 5.9 per cent from 6.8 per cent in April 2017.

Alan McQuaid of Merrion Capital said that while emigration has been a factor, the conditions in the labour market have also improved.

“It is the first time the rate has fallen below 6 per cent in almost a decade and the lowest rate since May 2008,” he said.

“Furthermore, it is a more than 10 percentage point improvement from the peak of 16 per cent hit in January/February 2012 during the financial crisis.

“As well as that, Ireland’s jobless rate is over two-and-a-half percentage points below the current euro zone average of 8.5 per cent.

“Although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the labour market has improved dramatically over the past few years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery.

“Indeed, the most recent migration estimates showed net inward migration of 19,800 in the year to April 2017, as against net inward migration of 16,200 in 2016, and the highest net inflow since 2008.”

According to the Labour Force Survey for the fourth quarter of 2017, employment rose in twelve of the fourteen economic sectors on an annual basis.

The greatest rates of increase were posted in the administrative and support services activities (+11.6 per cent or 9,800) and construction (+9.9 per cent or 12,000) sectors.

Some sectors however recorded job losses, with the biggest annual fall coming in professional, scientific and technical activities (-4.1 per cent or -5,700).

The CSO figures show the youth unemployment rate (15-24 years) was 12 per cent in April, down from almost 15 per cent in the same month last year. The rate has come down 0.5 per cent from the 12.5 per cent at which it stood in March.

“The adjusted jobless rate for persons aged 15-24 years remains elevated,” said Mr McQuaid. “The rate has declined from 17.6 per cent in April 2016, but the bottom line is that youth unemployment is still a lot higher than desirable.

“The Government needs to put particular focus on getting this rate down into single digits as quickly as possible.”

Overall however, Mr McQuaid said “another positive year” for the labour market is envisaged during the coming year. “The net jobs gain is forecast to be lower than last year, at around 50,000, as against just over 61,000 in 2017,” he said.

“Meanwhile, there was an average jobless rate of 6.7 per cent in 2017, down from 8.4 per cent in 2016. We are at this juncture forecasting a jobless rate of 5.7 per cent for 2018.”

The seasonally adjusted number of people unemployed was 140,300 in April, down from 143,500 when compared to the March figure, and a decrease of 16,700 when compared to April last year.