Varadkar seeks more aggressive cut in dole queues after latest fall
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is seeking more ambitious unemployment targets after the latest figures showed a significant fall over the past year.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) reported that the official unemployment rate fell from 6.7pc in January to 6.6pc in February, down from 8.4pc in February 2016.
This marked the lowest rate of unemployment since July 2008, after it rose above 15pc at the height of the bailout years in 2012.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for persons aged 15-24 years (youth unemployment rate), however, was much higher at 14.5pc in February, a decrease from 15.1pc in January.
The current Government target is to achieve an unemployment rate of 6pc by the end of 2020, and a long-term unemployment rate of 2.5pc.
But Mr Varadkar said that these could now be revised downwards, or the target date brought forward to recognise the progress made.
He said there had been a drop of 36,200 people on the Live Register in the space of a year.
"This is really encouraging, but I think it also represents an opportunity for the Government to be even more ambitious in its plans. That's why I'm considering more ambitious targets for driving down unemployment," he said.
"Ireland still faces significant risks such as Brexit and the rise of anti-globalisation politics in some countries. Nevertheless, unemployment continues to fall rapidly."
Meanwhile, Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, said overseas investors had played their part in achieving the consistent drop in unemployment levels in Ireland in recent years.
"Total employment at IDA-supported overseas companies in Ireland now stands at 199,877 people, the highest level on record. IDA clients account for almost 10pc of national employment," he said.
"While this trend is very welcome, we shouldn't take it for granted - we need to continue to focus on our competitiveness."