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Economic downturn: Blow for Lenihan as jobless total soars

A HUGE surge in unemployment and redundancies are outlined in startling new figures published today.

They show 13,300 more joined the dole queues last month -- pushing the total to 436,900. And redundancies soared, according to the latest report, with 6,699 losing their jobs in January.

The gloomy figures come despite recent positive soundings from the Government and economists who felt we had turned the corner.

The Government also came under further pressure after the opposition said an 18pc year-on-year drop in the tax take for January showed Budget 2010 did nothing to end the vicious cycle of recession.

Fine Gael said Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's claim that the "worst is over" was "dangerously premature".

However, the Government insisted the Exchequer returns for January were "in line with expectations".

But there is no dispute over the extent of the unemployment crisis. Live Register figures to be published at 11am today will show an increase of 13,300 in the numbers signing on the dole last month.

The estimated unemployment rate is now 12.7pc -- up from 12.5pc in December.

Budget forecasts are for an average rate of 13.2pc this year.

The January increase for those on the dole represents a significant rise on the 10,900 recorded in December.

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When seasonal factors are taken into account, the increase for January is 8,000, compared with 3,300 in December.

New data from the Department of Enterprise revealed last night that 6,699 people were made redundant in January. The figure does not include those who lost their jobs with less than two years' service and who are not eligible for redundancy payments.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) warned the startling redundancy figures -- which dwarf even the precedent-setting 6,588 official redundancies announced in January 2009 -- are alarming and do not bode well for the coming year.

"The figures are even worse than this time last year. It's showing a continuing deterioration and we're very fearful that the next three months will be even worse," ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said last night.

Almost twice as many men were made redundant as women at 4,289 and 2,410 respectively, while workers in Dublin suffered the most losses at 2,348 jobs.


Co Limerick had the second-highest number of redundancies at 999, followed by Co Cork at 855 while Leitrim, Monaghan and Longford had the fewest at 14, 26 and 42 respectively.

Meanwhile, as the resistance to Budget 2010 measures continues, Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted the Government had "no desire" to impose further pay cuts on public sector workers. But he did not give any guarantee there would not be further cutbacks in the coming years

And the Taoiseach said there was no way the decision to reduce the pay of public servants in December's Budget would be reversed. But he admitted he did not want to go down the route of pay cuts again and would like unions to re-engage with the Government to find other savings.

The comments come as unions representing workings continue to escalate their campaign against the controversial salary cuts.

Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar said the latest news on the jobs front represented "a very bleak start to the new year".

He called on the Government to implement two specific proposals from his party -- a national competitiveness plan and a stimulus plan to invest in major new infrastructure and get 100,000 people back to work.

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