THE Government is expecting a further rise in unemployment next year, predicting that 2012 will be a "very rough year" with the euro crisis set to cause further job losses.
But the Coalition is finalising a jobs plan to make sure the economy is ready to benefit when growth returns across the EU.
The plan will be launched in the new year and will contain a number of measures and reforms, which will have to be delivered on in specific tight timeframes.
Painting a bleak picture, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said 2012 would be "a very rough year" in employment terms.
"I think the next 12 months are going to be difficult on the employment front. But it's a time to lay out that platform, be ready for the lift," he said.
"You'd have to be pessimistic about the early part of the year. Europe has got to get its act together and that's an absolute necessity. The uncertainty that this (eurozone crisis) is creating is clear," he added.
The latest official figures show the number on the Live Register rose to 448,600 at the end of November -- an unemployment rate of 14.5pc.
Mr Bruton's stark warning is in marked contrast to Taoiseach Enda Kenny's aspirational target of getting all long-term unemployed people back in the workplace or in training by mid-2016.
The Jobs Minister said, across the EU, countries were downgrading their growth rates.
"You'd have to be realistic. We would prefer to be working on a more upbeat market than we are going to be," he said.
Mr Bruton is finalising the jobs plan, including tasks and reforms for a wide range of government departments and agencies.
He said the proposals would aim to make the economy more competitive, develop marketplaces, improve the regulatory system, reduce red tape for businesses and provide assistance in funding and mentoring for start-up companies.
The plan will contain specific points to target job creation in sectors such as life sciences, medical devices and digital gaming sectors.
Mr Bruton said the plan had the backing of the Taoiseach and its implementation would be supervised by both of their departments.
He said Mr Kenny's support and authority would prove to be "valuable".
"The point of it is that the Government has committed that the whole of Government must address the challenge of jobs. And this plan brings together actions right across the whole of Government," he said.
"There will be very clear targets with timelines, what's to be hit in each quarter. Any system performs better if success is acknowledged and disappointment is also recognised and questions are asked as to why things didn't happen," he said.
Last week, Mr Kenny set a target of getting all long-term unemployed people back in the workplace or in training by the end of his term in office.
The 177,000 people out of work for a year or more account for more than half of the 314,700 people on the dole.
Mr Kenny said he wanted to help this group of people before his term ended in 2016.
"I hope that by the end of this Government's period that anybody who's currently on long-term unemployment will be off long-term unemployment and will either be back in the world of work, or will have involved themselves in upskilling or changes of direction in terms of courses or whatever," he said.
The Government's target is to create 100,000 extra jobs by 2015, which would still leave large numbers of short-term and long-term unemployed people without work.
But Mr Kenny is covering himself by also saying he wants to get them into training.