THE number of people working has risen for the first time in five years.
New figures reveal promising signs in the labour market as the numbers out of work have dropped and long-term unemployment is also falling.
The latest Central Statistics Office report shows that the numbers working increased by 1,200 to 1.848 million in the final quarter of 2012.
That's the first annual increase in employment since early 2008.
And the unemployment rate has also fallen and now stands at 14.1pc compared with a high of 15pc this time last year.
Even more importantly, long-term unemployment is also falling – the numbers out of work for over a year dropped by nearly 20,000 in the last year to 176,400.
That brings the long-term unemployment rate down from 9.1pc to 8.2pc, the Quarterly National Household Survey shows.
Over the last year employment fell in the public sector, construction, transport and industry, but rose in agriculture and fishing and in the information and communication sectors.
The public sector has shed 27,300 people over the last three years, almost 7pc of its total, compared with 15,400 jobs in the private sector since 2009, or 1.3pc of its total employment.
There are now 428,876 people signing on the Live Register – which is over 10,000 less than this time last year.
And on a seasonally adjusted basis, the numbers signing on fell by 1,400 in February.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the improved figures.
"While the numbers today showing jobs growth in our economy for the first time in five years are welcome, all in government recognise we have much more to do to rebuild the shattered economy we inherited two years ago," he said.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said that building jobs rose for the second quarter in a row at the end of 2012 – the first time this had happened since the boom.
The numbers were up from 99,600 in mid-2012 to 103,200, which CIF director general Tom Parlon said showed a "tangible improvement in the fortunes for our sector".
KBC Bank economist Austin Hughes said that the "surprisingly large drop in unemployment rate reflects emigration, re-entry into education and retirement as well as a slightly better jobs climate".
The 14.1pc unemployment rate was the lowest since autumn 2010 and is going in a healthier direction than in many other euro countries.
Business group Ibec said the jobs data was "further evidence that the recovery is firmly under way".
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed warned that though the drop in long-term unemployment was welcome, there was also a 19,800 increase in the numbers outside the labour force, suggesting some had become discouraged in the search for work.
There's been a huge drop in the number of women engaged in "home duties" in the last year, down from 521,000 at the end of 2011 to 491,000 now.
The pro-Catholic Church Iona Institute warned many of these women were being forced to work by economic need.
"The sharp increase in the number of women leaving home for the workplace is almost certainly due to the recession," said Maria Steen.
However, the figures indicate a much sharper rise in the number of women who described themselves as retired.
Meanwhile, over 130 new jobs were announced for Dublin yesterday.
Guidewire, which provides software to the insurance industry, is creating 75 jobs at its offices in Blanchardstown, Dublin.
Ecocem Ireland, a cement company based at Dublin Port, also plans to create 61 jobs directly and indirectly in a new plant.