Live Register falls to five year low


UNEMPLOYMENT has fallen to its lowest level in five years with official figures showing a drop of 15,300 in the Live Register last year to 267,000. Central Statistics Office figures show that in December, after seasonal adjustment, the number of people signing on the Live Register fell by 1,700, the fifth consecutive fall.

The seasonally adjusted figures show a particularly sharp decline in the number of young people signing on last year, with unemployment among those under 25 down by 9,200 over the past 12 months to 63,500.

The continued fall off in the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in recent months follows a Government clampdown on social welfare fraud. But the drop in the Live Register in December has been less dramatic than in previous months. In October, 7,600 signed off the Live Register, while was followed by a further drop of 5,100 in November.

The further decline in unemployment was welcomed by the Government parties yesterday. Democratic Left TD Mr Eric Byrne said that the Government's aback to work" policies had resulted in unprecedented levels of job creation and should be matched by further success in 1997. "The Government policies are working - and so are increasing numbers of people," he said.

Fianna Fail spokeswoman on Enterprise and Employment, Ms Mary O'Rourke, said that, while the continuing decline was welcome, with more than a quarter of a million people still unemployed there was no room for complacency. "At present, half of all unemployment is long term and we continue to have the highest rate of long term unemployment in the OECD," according to Ms O'Rourke.

She warned the Government not to miss the opportunity to tackle Ireland's chronic long term unemployment problem in the forthcoming Budget. In particular, resources had to be provided for the Local Employment Service recommended by the National Economic and Social Forum as the most effective measure to tackle long term unemployment on a national basis, she said.

Progressive Democrats leader Ms Mary Harney described the figures as "disappointing", suggesting that unemployment levels - should be falling further if the Government fraud clampdown was still operating effectively. Surely at a time of record economic growth, registered unemployment should be falling significantly," she said.

The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed highlighted the rising trend in unemployment among women at a time when more men were able to find work. Much of this, it said, was due to its recent campaign with the National Women's Council to make women aware of their right to sign on.