Unemployment rate drops to 12.3% in January

Live Register numbers show number of people claiming benefits dropped by 2,300 last month


The country’s unemployment rate, as measured by the Live Register, fell to 12.3 per cent in January, its lowest rate in more than four years and only marginally above the euro zone average of 12 per cent.

The latest figures from the Central Statistic Office (CSO) showed the number of people claiming benefits dropped by 2,300 last month, the 19th successive monthly decline.

The seasonally adjusted register, which includes casual and part-time workers as well as those on Jobseeker’s Allowance, was 400,700 at the end of January,

This represented an annual decline of 29,800 or 6.9 per cent.

Although the annual decrease came from both long-term and short-term unemployment categories, the greatest decline was amongst those unemployed for less than a year.

The figures showed short-term claimants fell by 8.9 per cent over the year, while long-term claimants fell by 4.5 per cent.

As a result, the proportion of long-term unemployed continued to increase and stood at 45.4 per cent or 181,326 last month, compared with 44.2 per cent one year ago and 41.8 per cent two years ago.

The number of under-25s on the register - one of the most pernicious aspects of the recession - corresponded to about 15.1 per cent of the overall in January, despite falling by 7,827 or 11.4 per cent over the year.

A breakdown of the figures on the basis of last-held occupation showed “craft and related” employees remained the largest occupational group on the register in January, accounting for 21.1 per cent.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton welcomed the figures, saying the Government was making “steady progress” in getting people back to work through its various employment schemes.

“With the transformation of the department from the passive benefits provider of old to an active and engaged employment service, we are perfectly positioned to help employers find the recruits they need,” she said.

However, Chambers Ireland cautioned that while the numbers on the register continued to drop, they needed to fall at a quicker pace.

Deputy chief executive Seán Murphy said: “While there is no doubt that this is positive news, if we continue at this pace, then the level of unemployment in this country will remain at unacceptably high levels for years to come.”

Mark Fielding, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, said unemployment levels continued to be “unsustainably high” and warned that recent calls for pay increases by some unions and bankers were “premature in the extreme and damaging to economic progress”.

Financial services firm Glas Securities said while the continued downward momentum in the unemployment numbers is to be welcomed, “arguably a more important data series for 2014 is the numbers in employment”.

The firm said the initial decline in unemployment in 2012 was not matched by a meaningful increase in employment levels, but this trend reversed last year with employment growth reaching 3.1 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter.