Jobless figures for November unchanged at 12.5% - CSO


THE RATE of unemployment remained unchanged at 12.5 per cent in November, according to the latest estimate from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The Live Register of Jobseekers’ Benefit and Assistance claimants rose by 900 to 423,400 on a seasonally adjusted basis last month, the CSO said.

The latest figures, which follow a decline of 3,000 in October, prompted economists to declare that the rate of unemployment has now stabilised. However, rising rates of emigration and higher numbers of people returning to education are likely to have stemmed the rate of increase in the number of claimants, rather than better conditions in the jobs market.

“It is clear that renewed emigration is acting as a pressure valve and has led to a slowing down in the numbers signing on,” said Labour Party employment spokesman Willie Penrose. “There is a €4 billion gap in our public finances that needs to be closed, and one of the best ways of doing that is to reduce the numbers of people who have been forced onto the dole queues,” he said.

He said the budget should include a “bridge the gap” work experience programme for graduates; a skills drive for people who lost their jobs and PRSI breaks for employers who create jobs.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael yesterday launched a youth jobs plan, which it said would reduce the number of people aged under 25 on the Live Register by one-third. The plan allows for a €245 million package of interventions in the labour market.

“There is a real risk that we will have a permanently lost generation if something proactive is not done to stem this loss of talent and ability from our economy,” said Fine Gael employment spokesman Leo Varadkar.

There are 83,362 people under 25 on the Live Register, down 1,586 on October, according to the latest data. In the first 11 months of 2009, the average monthly number of unemployment benefit claimants across all age groups has been 395,600, an increase of 174,600 on the average total of 221,000 in the same period last year.

In April, the Government forecast there would be an average of 440,000 on the Live Register during 2009. Alan McQuaid, economist at stockbrokers Bloxham, said take-up of two of the Government’s employment schemes – the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance scheme and the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance programme – was also “another key element in the improvement in the numbers on the Live Register”.

“As things currently stand, there are now question marks over whether the jobless rate will actually break the 13 per cent level and, even if it does, it is hard to see it going much higher than 13.5 per cent,” Mr McQuaid said.

Earlier this year, some economists were forecasting that the unemployment rate would peak at 17 per cent in 2010. However, the Construction Industry Federation warned cuts to the Government’s capital construction investment programme would put pressure on the Live Register next year.

“Cuts in nominal levels of current spending designed to stabilise the public finances will be undermined by further job losses, reduced tax receipts and increased social welfare arising from the cancellation or postponement of construction projects,” said director general Tom Parlon.

According to data released on Tuesday, the Department of Employment was notified of 5,903 redundancies in November. This brings the total redundancies so far this year to just over 73,000, almost double the number recorded in the same period in 2008.