Jobless rate falls to lowest in five years at 11.8pc
THE unemployment rate is continuing to drop as the number of people on the Live Register fell by another 1,800 last month – but the number of long-term unemployed has risen marginally.
New Central Statistics Office figures show that there are now 391,232 people signing on the dole while the unemployment rate also dropped to 11.8pc.
This compares with a high of 15.1pc two years ago and means the Irish unemployment rate is now lower than the euro- zone average of 11.9pc – although it's still the sixth highest in the EU.
There are almost 34,000 fewer people signing on than there were a year ago, which is a drop of 8pc, while the unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2009.
On a seasonally adjusted basis the numbers signing on fell by 1,800 people to 396,900 last month. However, there are also another 85,119 people on various government back-to-work schemes, which is 1,700 more than a year ago.
And the proportion of long-term unemployed who have been out of work for over a year rose to 45.8pc of the total, up from 45.2pc a year ago.
The continued fall in unemployment provides reassurance that the recovery is continuing despite the recent fall in GDP, said Davy analyst Conall Mac Coille.
Merrion stockbrokers economist Alan McQuaid said that this was the 21st month in a row where the numbers on the Live Register had fallen, and unemployment could fall below 11pc by year-end.
But the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) warned that continued jobs growth must not be jeopardised by wage increases.
"The drive for jobs must not be sabotaged by the demands for wage increases which will simply stall any fragile recovery, as the cost of labour is by far the most significant driver of business costs for most enterprises," said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said she was re-energised by "the lowest figures for unemployment for the last five years".
"I think that is a significant milestone," Ms Burton said.
She was, however, conscious of the challenge ahead and said, "it just emphasises though, with 391,000 people on the Live Register, we still have a way to go."
The CSO figures show that men are coming off the Live Register quicker than women, with monthly decreases of 1,400 males and 300 females in March.
Casual and part-time workers, who can sign on for days they're not working, account for 20.4pc or just under 80,000 of those on the dole, which is a drop of 10,000 on a year earlier.
Three-quarters of those on the Live Register are on means-tested jobseekers allowance, while the numbers on jobseekers benefit, which is related to recent employment, fell by 33pc to 57,000.