Jobless rate below 7pc for first time since 2008
The unemployment rate dipped to 6.8pc last month, the lowest level since mid-2008, official figures show.
The last time it was lower was July 2008, when it was 6.5pc, according to the Central Statistics Office.
But the numbers languishing on the dole for more than a year, the long-term unemployed, hardly reduced at all last year.
December, when the jobless rate was 6.9pc, was the first month since the summer of 2008 that it dipped below 7pc
The numbers in work are at their highest level since the end of 2008. The CSO said the number of people in a job in the final three months of last year increased by 65,100 compared with the same period in 2015.
That brought total employment to just over 2 million. All sectors of the economy saw an increase in employment at the end of the year, the CSO said.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said this was encouraging. "In parallel with the employment growth, unemployment continues to fall and we now have net inward migration," he said.
The numbers out of work fell by 40,000 last year, or by 21.4pc.
Long-term unemployment, while falling very gradually, remains stubbornly high and still accounts for more than half of the total out of work figure. Some 54pc of those without a job have been languishing on the dole for a year or more. That's down from just 54.5pc at the end of 2015, and 57.8pc in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The number of people in the labour force increased by 25,100 over last year
Employment increased in all 14 economic sectors over the year.
The sectors with the largest rates of increase were Construction, up 9.2pc or 11,600, and Professional, scientific and technical activities, up 5.7pc or 6,800.
Alan McQuaid of Merrion Fixed Income said the figures were positive and better than expected.
"Although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the labour market has improved dramatically over the past two/three years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery," he said.