Unemployment drops to 6% in February

State’s jobless rate now at its lowest rate since May 2008

“The labour market has improved dramatically over the past few years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery,” said Merrion analyst Alan McQuaid.   Pic: Alan Betson

“The labour market has improved dramatically over the past few years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery,” said Merrion analyst Alan McQuaid. Pic: Alan Betson

 

The State’s unemployment rate has fallen again, dropping to 6 per cent in February as conditions in the labour market tighten and the economy moves towards full employment.

This was the lowest jobless rate recorded in the Republic since May 2008, when the figure was 5.9 per cent.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) indicate the seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed was 141,600 in February, down from 143,900 the previous month. This represented an annual decrease of 28,000.

Unemployment has fallen nearly 10 percentage points from the peak of 15.9 per cent in December 2011 during the financial crisis.

The turnaround means Ireland’s jobless rate is now nearly 3 per cent lower than the euro zone average of 8.7 per cent.

The figures show the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for men was 6.5 per cent, unchanged from January and down from 7.4 per cent in February 2017, and 5.5 per cent for woman, down from 7.1 per cent a year ago.

The rate of youth unemployment in February was 13.2 per cent, down from 13.5 per cent in January.

The Central Bank expects unemployment to fall to 5 per cent next year, a rate which corresponds to full employment in the Irish economy.

Inward migration

“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,” Merrion analyst Alan McQuaid said.

“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,” he said.

Nonetheless, he noted the rate of youth unemployment, while falling, remained elevated.

“The Government needs to put particular focus on getting this rate down into single digits as quickly as possible,” he said. “Overall though, another positive year for the labour market is envisaged in 2018, but the net jobs gain is forecast to be lower than last year, at around 40,000, as against just over 50,000 in 2017,” Mr McQuaid said. He said Merrion was forecasting a jobless rate of 5.5 per cent for 2018.

The number of people on the Live Register in January was at its lowest level since the height of the crash. Figures for February will be published next week.