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Slight rise in jobless total

The unemployment rate jumped slightly to 13.4pc at the end of last year, official figures revealed today.

The number of people signing on rose by just over 12,000 in December, taking the overall total on the Live Register to 437,079.

The Central Statistics Office said about one third of people on the dole are now classed as long-term unemployed after signing on for a year or longer.

More than 42,600 new people applied for welfare payments last month.

Meanwhile, major firms reported to the Department of Enterprise that 2,870 people were laid off in December.

Labour's Willie Penrose said the rise was grim New Year news for workers.

"While the export statistics and the exchequer figures published this week showed some recovery in the multinational sector, the Live Register figures show that there is a still a huge problem in the domestic economy and with unemployment levels," he said.

"Job creation and the needs of those without jobs have received virtually no attention from (Taoiseach) Brian Cowen and his government.

"Mass unemployment is the political epitaph for this government."

Youth Work Ireland said the CSO report continued to suggest that young people were emigrating instead of signing on.

Michael Mc Loughlin, the group's spokesman, said: "The spectre of emigration is a major social tragedy and seems to be accepted as almost an Irish solution to an Irish problem. This must be challenged.

"Increased emigration amongst young people is a major economic issue as this group has been very well-educated. Now a different country will reap the benefit of this investment and Ireland will lack the people and the skills to build a smart economy."

Some 81,000 under-25s were on the Live Register in December, down 3,118 in the year.

PA Media