State hit with €170m bill as 8,500 join jobless ranks
THE DEPLETED public finances took a further €170m "hit" last month as 8,500 more people joined dole queues across the country.
The unemployment crisis deepened dramatically after new figures revealed the number of jobless had surpassed 450,000 for the first time.
The Government was also accused of failing younger people in the workforce, with Fine Gael and Youth Work Ireland highlighting the number of under-30s who are unemployed.
There are now 452,500 on the Live Register, the biggest rise in the seasonally adjusted figure for a year, and the unemployment rate has risen from 13.4pc in June to 13.7pc.
It has increased by 34,400 since this time last year and the largest monthly jump in unemployment came among professional workers, up by 12.3pc. Professionals now account for one in six people out of work. More women than men were added to the register during July, with an additional 4,600 women and 3,900 men signing on.
However, the Department of Finance last night insisted its budgetary plans were still on track and said unemployment would have to rise to around 485,000 by the end of the year to have an effect on its strategy.
It is estimated every person who loses his/her job costs the State €20,000 a year through lost taxes and increased social welfare payments.
The department could not say if the €170m hit the State had taken through the latest jobless figures would mean December's Budget -- which has to find €3bn in taxes and cuts -- will be even tougher.
"The budget will be decided in December so we'll have to look at the figures then," a spokesman for Finance Minster Brian Lenihan told the Irish Independent.
When planning the Budget last December, Mr Lenihan allowed for an average of 458,000 people to be jobless this year.
His spokesman said officials thought it was extremely unlikely the budgetary estimates would be exceeded.
Fine Gael's enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton said the impact on younger people was "very worrying".
"Unemployment rates among people under 25 are over 33pc and over a third of the young people who have become unemployed are already classed as long-term unemployed -- out of work for over a year," he said.
"The first wave of unemployment hit construction and manufacturing where 180,000 jobs were wiped out, mainly for men. Now we see a second phase with huge job losses hitting white-collar workers, mainly women, as the recession takes hold."
Youth Work Ireland said unemployment among younger people had to be tackled since "nobody wants to see a whole generation cast aside".
But Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe said a rise in the number of people on the dole was common in the summer due to seasonal factors.
Labour's Willie Penrose said the Government had no strategy to tackle unemployment.