Surge in women without jobs
Live Register figure rises in March for first time in five months
A SURGE in the number of women out of work led to the first rise in the unemployment level for five months.
New Live Register figures from the Central Statistics Office showed 441,193 people were on the dole in March, and the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 14.7pc.
The total figure is 3,106 fewer than in February, but when the figures are adjusted to take account of seasonal factors -- which usually result in an upsurge in employment at this time of year as tourism and leisure industries ramp up -- the numbers out of work actually rose by more than 1,100.
More than 900 of those were women; while, overall, an extra 6,000 females are signing on compared to this time last year.
This was the first time in five months that the seasonally adjusted total has risen, although there are still some 6,800 fewer people on the dole than at its peak in September 2010.
While the number of men signing on stabilised over the past year at around 290,000, three times as many women as men joined the Live Register in March, and the number of females rose 4pc to 151,000 in a year.
This may be down to the fact that sales and service sectors saw bigger increases in unemployment than building trades.
Small Firms Association director Avine McNally said while construction jobs had taken the first hit in the downturn, the service sector where many women worked is suffering now.
"The figures also show that part-time jobs are being lost, as a lot of firms are having to take hard decisions to cut staff, and that's hitting women hard," she said.
Business group IBEC said long-term unemployment was becoming a serious problem.
"The most striking trend in recent data has been the sharp increase in long-term unemployment, which increased by almost 50pc in the year to March," said IBEC economist Reetta Suonpera.
Some 38pc of those on the Live Register have been out of work for over a year. The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association has demanded urgent action.
"In their first 100 days the Government must refocus on jobs, and rebalance their overall efforts away from the banks and NAMA in favour of job retention and creation," said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.
Ulster Bank economist Lynsey Clemengers said the increase in claimants should be seen against the bigger fall of 7,800 since last September.
"In terms of where we see things going from here, we anticipate further modest downward pressure on the jobless rate in the quarters ahead," she said.