Sunday 18 March 2018

Kenny sets new unemployment target

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking at a press conference on job creation at Government Buildings
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking at a press conference on job creation at Government Buildings
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking at a press conference on job creation at Government Buildings

A new target of unemployment below 10% has been set for two years time.

As official figures revealed a substantial fall in the jobless rate to levels not seen since 2009, Taoiseach Enda Kenny declared the Government would go on attack to drive it down further.

"I hope that it will be below 10% certainly, by 2016 and the general election," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach said while he cannot predict the future the data pointing to an improving jobs market was reassuring.

The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed that the number of people out of work fell by 41,700 over the last year, taking the unemployment rate down to 12.8% at the end of September.

It had been up at 13.6% for the three months to the end of June.

The latest drop brought the total number of people unemployed to 282,900.

The figures, unveiled in the CSO's quarterly national household survey, also found that the long-term unemployment rate had come down from 8.9% to 7.6% over the year.

The CSO survey was released just hours before the Government published its seventh review of its action plan for jobs, which claimed that the private sector has been creating an average 1,200 jobs a week for the past year.

Mr Kenny said: " When you look across the number of sectors that are involved there, I think the impact is very significant."

The CSO report revealed that employment increased in eight of the 14 economic sectors over the year and fell in six.

The largest rates of increase were in agriculture, forestry and fishing, up 25,100; accommodation and food service activities, up 14,700; and professional, scientific and technical roles, up 10,900.

The data also showed the largest annual increases in employment were in the 35-44 age group - up 21,000 - and the 45-54 age group - up 18,400.

The only age group which suffered a fall was 25 to 34-year-olds, which was down around 9,200 in the last year.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton admitted that a gain in the employment rate among the country's youngest workers may have been at the expense of this group.

He said it was remarkable that the under-25s have finally seen employment growth to the tune of around 3,200 new jobs.

He said this was the first turnaround since the onset of the recession.

"I would argue that these are encouraging numbers," Mr Bruton said.

"They may have been somewhat at the expense of the threshold of 25 to 34s, but I think it has been a young person's recession and it is really encouraging to see a reverse."

Mr Bruton added that the general employment growth was testament to the Irish workforce and its entrepreneurial spirit, which he described as a real base to build on.

The CSO said that the latest was the fifth quarter in succession during which unemployment declined on an annual basis.

However, the amount of people classed as long-term unemployed - out of work for a year or more - accounts for 58% of the total - only down about 1% from a year earlier.

The total number of people in the labour force is 2,182,100 - up 16,300 over the year.

Despite the positive results, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said there is still a lot to be done to tackle the crisis.

"There are still far too many people out of work, and tackling unemployment will remain the Government's number one priority, but these figures demonstrate that we are making steady progress," Ms Burton said.

"Especially important is the fact that the majority of people returning to work are returning to full-time employment, as today's figures demonstrate."

Meanwhile, Fergal O'Brien, chief economist with business lobby group Ibec, claimed the CSO report was the strongest evidence yet that the "great recession" is well and truly in the past.

"Right now our labour market is really humming," he said.

"It is spectacular - and against all expectations - that employment is growing at around 2.5%, while GDP is struggling to achieve over 1% growth.

"It is also very positive to see that there is a good sectoral spread in the jobs recovery. Agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and professional services/technology have been the strongest performers, but it also really encouraging to see the recovery in construction employment."

Press Association

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