Small rise in jobless rate 'masks' gloom ahead
THE number of people signing on rose slightly to 433,000 in March, pushing the unemployment rate up to 13.4pc.
And the Government has been accused of spending billions on the banks while doing nothing for the unemployed.
An extra 600 people joined the live register in March, a reversal of the February figures when there was a slight drop in unemployment, the latest seasonally adjusted figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal.
In the 12 months to 2010, the numbers on the dole increased by 65,600 or 18pc, with the total on the live register now standing at 433,000. However, this increase is less than the 24pc rise seen in the year to February 2010 when an extra 84,503 people joined the register.
But the real figures are masked by emigration and more people going into state training courses or education, while another 60,000 jobs are at immediate risk in small businesses, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) warned last night.
"A recent ISME survey confirmed that one-in-four (26pc) anticipated reducing employment numbers over the next 12 months, which equates to a minimum of 60,000 jobs at risk," said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.
"It is imperative that these jobs are saved and policies are put in place to assist companies in job creation."
But while the Government gave the banks a €40bn bailout this week they were doing nothing for the unemployed, even though the rate had trebled since the current coalition came to power, said Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar.
"The most worrying feature of today's figures is evidence that more and more people are moving from short-term jobseekers' benefit to long-term jobseekers' allowance as their stamps run out," he said.
"The social consequences of long-term unemployment are as serious as the economic ones currently paralysing the country. It leads to a loss of hope, destroys communities and causes poverty."
However, analysts said that though the labour market was weak, the annual increase was lower than at any time since January 2008.
Labour spokesman Willie Penrose said the Government was going "hell-for-leather" in bailing out the banks but were bereft of ideas for tackling unemployment.
"One in three young men in the labour force are out of work at present and in some parts of the country it is as many as one in two," he said. "We are again facing the terrible prospect of long-term unemployment that caused such social damage during the 1980s."
Ulster Bank economist Lynsey Clemenger said the live register would climb to around 450,000 by the end of the year.