Latest wave of emigration slows rise in unemployment
THE number of people losing their jobs finally stabilised last month amid fears unemployed young males are being forced to emigrate to find work.
Unemployment dropped for the first time since September last year as the number of people signing on the dole fell by more than 2,000 last month.
Men accounted for almost all of the fall-off in numbers on the Live Register.
Although there are no up-to-date figures on the number of people who have emigrated this year, there are anecdotal reports of unemployed construction workers travelling to England, Australia and other overseas destinations to find work.
Men still outnumber women two to one on the Live Register, with almost 291,000 males compared to 146,000 females.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday claimed job losses had stabilised because the figures showed a minimal rise in the numbers on the dole. The overall unemployment rate dropped marginally from 12.7pc last month to 12.6pc this month.
However, opposition parties claimed the drop in unemployment was the result of a new wave of emigration.
Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar said 87pc of the drop in the Live Register was among men, which was a clear link to the declining construction sector.
"Ireland is once again raising its young people for export. The apparent stability in the Live Register is actually due to unemployed people leaving the country," he said.
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed also questioned whether unemployment was really falling as they noted there had been a much steeper drop in the numbers on Jobseekers' Benefit, which runs out after a year at most.
Many unemployed people were then finding themselves unable to get a means-tested Jobseekers' Allowance payment because their spouse was working, and this was affecting an increasing number of men as well as many women, meaning official figures might be masking the true level of joblessness.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the total of over 430,000 pointed to an appalling failure of Government, and called on the Taoiseach to break out of his 'tribal jacket' and listen to opposition plans for job creation.
"When they look at this Cabinet, all they see is talk about jobs for the boys and the girls. If it were not so serious it would be like 'Lanigan's Ball'," he said.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said 340 people on average had lost their jobs every day since Mr Cowen became Taoiseach, and that figure did not include those who had emigrated.
"How much longer do people have to tolerate the Taoiseach, the Government and the misery that they are inflicting on those who are losing their jobs and suffering as a result of the collapse under his watch?"
Mr Cowen defended the Government's record, saying it had put €6.5bn into a capital investment programme that was protecting up to 80,000 jobs in the economy.
"Even last year, in the most difficult year, 125 projects were obtained by IDA Ireland for this country," he said.
Mr Cowen said it was a fact that jobs were being created while jobs were being lost.
"The Government will continue to pursue policies that will bring growth back to this economy, hopefully in the second half of this year," he said.
Employers' group Ibec economist Reeta Suonpera said that though labour market conditions would remain difficult in 2010, "the worst of the job losses appears now to be behind us. This will help stabilise consumer confidence and spending".
But the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) warned against complacency and using the figures as a publicity stunt.
"The reality within the small business sector is that the number of job losses continues to rise, with little or no job creation apparent within the sector," said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.
Ulster Bank economist Lynsey Clemenger said the unemployment rate was better than the bank had expected.
But she warned job losses in the financial sector were inevitable in the months ahead, as were further cuts in building and retail jobs.