UNEMPLOYMENT has fallen over the last year for the first time since the recession began.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office show a modest decline of 3,600 in the numbers out of work, dropping to 324,500 in the third quarter of 2012.
However, the numbers working also fell at the same time by 5,800 to 1.841m.
Part of this is explained by emigration or people returning to education.
While public sector employment has fallen by 16,200 in the past year, the CSO estimated that private sector employment has gone up by around 20,000, the first such increase in years.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell marginally from 14.9pc to 14.8pc.
However almost 60pc of those out of work are now longterm unemployed for over a year, with men outnumbering women by two to one.
The biggest drops in employment were 7pc falls in the construction and transport and storage sectors, but the CSO noted this was nothing like the job losses seen in previous years.
Areas which saw job growth included the professional and scientific sector and agriculture, forestry and fishing, both of which saw a 4pc increase.
The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association said the unemployment figures, and particularly the long term ones, were still a national disgrace that would be even worse if it wasn't for the numbers emigrating.
"The Budget must be used innovatively to prime the pump with a financial package that subsidises additional jobs created. The cost will be more than repaid to the exchequer in extra consumer spend," said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.