Unemployment at four-year low as 1,100 jobs created each week
MORE than 1,100 jobs are now being created every week, driving unemployment below 13pc for the first time in four years.
The news has taken the Government by surprise and prompted the Taoiseach to set a new target for unemployment.
Mr Kenny has pledged to bring the jobless rate below 10pc by 2016, which he admitted is likely to coincide with the general election.
"We have a long way to travel but we are moving in the right direction," he added.
Ministers and economists have hailed the figures which show that employment is growing faster than at any time since 2007, with an extra 58,000 jobs created in the last year alone.
They said this augured well for all areas of the economy as the knock-on effects of more people working would boost house prices and retail sales, and cut mortgage arrears.
Central Statistics Office figures show that unemployment fell to 12.8pc in the third quarter of 2013 compared with a high of over 15pc last year.
There's been a drop of almost 42,000 in the numbers out of work -- down to 282,900 -- and this pushed the unemployment rate down to 12.6pc for October.
The number in work climbed to 1.899 million -- almost 75,000 more than at its low point in early 2012, though a long way off the 2.17m people working at the height of the boom.
The latest Quarterly National Household Survey shows eight out of 14 sectors enjoying job growth. Farming and tourism were the star performers, with an extra 25,100 people working in agriculture, fishing and forestry and an extra 14,700 people employed in accommodation and food services.
Long-term unemployment fell from 8.9pc a year ago to 7.7pc.
Public sector employment has fallen by almost 4,000 in the last year to 375,000 and is 28,800 lower than three years ago. By contrast the number of self-employed people rose by over 30,000 this year while private sector firms took on an extra 25,800 employees.
The figures have been lauded by the Government, while economists said they indicate that the economic recovery is accelerating. Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said that "the jobs figures are the best indicator yet that the recovery of the economy is taking hold".
Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said that the job numbers were hugely encouraging overall and suggested that the economy is performing better than official GDP figures would suggest, with emigration not the only factor in keeping the jobless rate down.
"We would expect the improving labour market to be reflected in higher house prices, stronger retail sales and lower mortgage arrears over time," he said.
KBC economist Austin Hughes said that annual jobs growth of 3.2pc was notably faster than was being seen in the US and UK. "The Irish jobless rate is not markedly different to the euro area average of 12.2pc at present and is moving in an altogether more favourable direction," he said.
Meanwhile, Failte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn welcomed the news.
"A combination of recent Government initiatives, 'The Gathering' and improving overseas markets have helped to ensure that tourism has begun to reap the benefits of increased visitors, employment and revenue," he said.
But the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association warned that the long-term unemployed still accounted for 58.4pc of the total out of work.