Numbers at work exceed 1.6m


The numbers at work rose by more than 100,000 to exceed 1.6 million toward the end of last year while the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 per cent of the workforce, according to figures released yesterday.

The quarterly national household survey, carried out by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), found that 1,647,400 people were employed in the September to November period last year.

Although this was down from the seasonal peak of 1,669,200 recorded in the summer, it represented an increase of 102,700, or 6.3 per cent, on the same period a year earlier.

Accompanying the rise in employment was a further fall in those without jobs. The number of unemployed fell to 88,700, dragging the unemployment rate down to just above five per cent from 6.4 per cent a year earlier.

The Republic's jobless rate is now well below the latest European Union average of 8.8 per cent.

Of the 17,300 drop in the number unemployed last year, the long-term unemployed accounted for 15,700 of the decline and now account for just 2.1 per cent of the labour force.

The unemployment rate fell in all regions with Dublin recording the lowest rate of four per cent. The border region had the highest jobless rate, at 8.5 per cent.

The survey found that there were 82,000 more people in full-time employment and 20,700 more in part-time jobs.

The biggest growth in the work force last year was in the financial and other business sector with an increase of 20,900 in the numbers employed. Construction also performed strongly with 18,100 extra jobs while for women, the biggest growth areas were education and health which provided an extra 14,300 jobs.

Welcoming the figures, the Government said they showed that social partnership had borne fruit. "Today's figures continue to show the economy's ability to translate strong growth into jobs," the chief whip, Mr Seamus Brennan, said.

The Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Ms Harney, said the elimination of long-term unemployment, one of the main sources of poverty and deprivation in any society, was now in sight. She noted that the number of people unemployed for one year or more had fallen to 36,000 from 90,000 two years earlier.

But on the negative side, the survey continued to show evidence of labour shortages. Supply indicators, which measure the unemployed and other groups interested in obtaining work, fell to 9.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 1999 from 10.6 per cent a year earlier.

The survey also found that labour force participation was much higher than a year ago. The most notable increases in participation rates were found among those aged 15 to 19, with a particularly strong rise of 16,500 in the number of students with jobs, and among women aged between 25 and 54.

Female participation rates are now much closer to average EU levels but still lower than in countries like Britain or other parts of northern Europe, the CSO said.