UNEMPLOYMENT rose again in December, bringing more disappointing news for the economy.
More than 1,000 extra people a week signed on in December after three months of falling numbers.
The total joining the live register increased by 5,200 last month, even after adjusting for seasonal factors.
This brought the total numbers signing on to 437,079 -- up over 13,000 on the previous year -- and pushing the unemployment rate up to 13.4pc.
Men outnumbered women 10 to one in the numbers signing on in December, the new Central Statistics Office figures show.
However, the grim figures would be even worse if it wasn't for the large numbers emigrating, analysts said.
Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton said the signs of ongoing emigration were unmistakable.
"Despite rising overall unemployment, the number of young people signing on has fallen. It seems that people with qualifications are the ones leaving the country," he said.
Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv said that, despite the rises last month, there were still 30,000 fewer people on the live register than in August 2010 and he was confident it would fall further during 2011.
"Myself and my colleagues in government are continuing to give priority to job protection, job creation and supporting unemployed people," he said, also noting that around 80,000 of the people signing on were in part-time employment.
But a third of small businesses expect to shed jobs in the next 12 months and 233 jobs a day are already being lost, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association said.
"The indications are that 2011 will continue to see unemployment remaining high, with the first quarter being particularly difficult as many businesses attempt to deal with the effects of harsh trading conditions over the Christmas period," said its chief executive Mark Fielding.
Official government figures also out yesterday showed that nearly 3,000 people were made redundant in December but this is 30pc fewer than the same month in 2009.
Overall in 2010 some 58,731 people were made redundant, which was 24pc fewer than in 2009.
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) said that after a bad start to the year jobs wise -- with losses at Celtic Bookmakers, Superquinn and Britvic already this week -- the road ahead looked bleak.
Falls in the live register towards the end of 2010 were down to more people emigrating, going into education or training, or being cut off from social welfare payments because of family circumstances, said INOU co-ordinator John Stewart.
Bloxhams analyst Alan McQuaid said that it was likely to be the middle of the year at the earliest before there was any real improvement in employment.