Unemployment rate rises to 13.7%


The number of people signing on to the Live Register rose by 6,600 in May, the Central Statistics Office said, with the unemployment rate rising to 13.7 per cent.

The latest increase brings the seasonally adjusted total number of people receiving unemployment benefits to 439,100. The Live Register includes people who work part-time, and seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Allowance or Jobseekers Benefit.

An additional 1,650 people signed on every week in May, compared with a weekly fall of 100 in April.

There were an estimated 41,602 male and 37,273 female casual and part-time workers on the Live Register during the month.

In the year to May, there was an unadjusted increase of 43,788, or 11.1 per cent in the Live Register, compared to 13.3 per cent in the year to April 2010.

Seperate figures out this morning showed Irish companies laid off 5,032 workers in May, a 37 per cent decline on the year-earlier period. Redundancies have fallen 20 per cent in the five months through May from the year earlier.

The 1.5 per cent rise in the Live Register was described as "disappointing" by analysts, who speculated that construction lay-offs may have begun again, accounting for a significant rise in the number of men signing on to the register.

Minister for Enterprise Batt O’Keeffe TD said the “relatively modest increase” in the figures was disappointing.

“We should recall that they follow two months of solid stabilisation,” he said. “It is worth noting, too, that the number of redundancies notified last month was lower than any single month in 2009 and the lowest we have seen since December 2008. The trends show that the labour market is beginning to reflect greater economic stability and signs of recovery.”

Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar blamed the Government for the rise in the Live Register.

“Ireland urgently needs a jobs and competitiveness strategy. Bailing out the banks is not an investment in the future. In the week that €2 billion was poured into Anglo Irish Bank, the Government’s failure to provide a stimulus package for growth looks incredible," he said. "We need to invest in the real economy in order to get people back to work."

Mr O’Keeffe accused Fine Gael of trading politically on the anxieties of workers who have lost jobs in this recession. “In another typical bout of hyperbole, the party’s enterprise spokesman uses the plight of unemployed workers as political leverage in the race for the convenient soundbite,” he said. "Fine Gael likes to flag its so-called NewEra jobs strategy - except we know that most of it is a unabashed rehash of Government policy.”

Labour enterprise spokesman Willie Penrose said the Government“ has run out of ideas” on how to tackle unemployment. “While they are perfectly happy to pump billion after billion into zombie banks, they are doing virtually nothing to invest in job creation,” he said.

Sinn Féin marked the unemployment figures by delivering 10,000 postcards from out-of-work people around the country to Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s office.

Davy analyst Rossa White said the rise was the most since August 2009. "Male claimants accounted for two-thirds of the monthly increase, suggesting that the pace of construction layoffs re-accelerated. We do not expect construction employment to bottom until early 2012," he wrote in a note.

However, Mr White said a backlog of claimants could have caused a distortion in the figures. "Some of this backlog did not ultimately qualify for assistance, possibly depressing numbers on the register a little in the first four months of 2010," he wrote. "The future change in claimants may prove an even more accurate guide to trend."

"The numbers are a little bit disappointing," said Simon Barry, an economist at Ulster Bank. "There's a lagging relationship between any upturn in economic activity and changes in the labour market."

The Small Firms Association said the rise was "a damning indictment of the absence of Government policy in this area" and called for immediate action to restore cost competitiveness to the small business sector.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) warned that a generation could be lost to emigration and called for the immediate implementation of the employers’ PRSI exemption scheme.

Ireland is “in the throes of the worst economic crisis in living memory”, chief executive Mark Fielding said. “Unfortunately, the Government is ignoring this fact and is contributing to an already dreadful situation by refusing to implement coherent policies to address the issue.”