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Friday 15 November 2019

Unemployment fall sparks debate

Levels of people claiming benefits have dropped, according to the Central Statistics Office
Levels of people claiming benefits have dropped, according to the Central Statistics Office

The unemployment rate is now at a three-and-a-half-year low, official figures have revealed.

But as the latest review of the labour market showed a 3,200 drop in the number of people on the dole, experts warned this could be attributed to high emigration rates and not an increase in jobs.

The seasonally adjusted figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed 13.5% of the nation's entire workforce signed on to the Live Register in July - down from 13.6% the previous month.

This was the lowest rate of unemployment recorded since March 2010. The rate hit its highest point of 15.1% in February 2012. According to the CSO, 419,200 claimants signed on for unemployment and job-seeking benefits during July.

That was down from 422,400 the previous month and represented a drop of 17,600 from July 2012.

Mark Fielding, chief executive of Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME), accused the Government of turning a deaf ear to the jobs crisis by buying into the idea that Ireland has entered a period of stabilisation.

"Our unemployment figures would be significantly higher were it not for youth emigration - hardly a point of honour for this current administration," Mr Fielding said. "This prolonged period of emigration, overseen by our 'pied piper government', poses an immediate threat to our recovery, as our well educated and skilled young people bring their valuable experience elsewhere."

The latest CSO statistics also revealed that men were largely accountable for the drop in social welfare claimants. Some 2,200 fewer males signed on in July from the previous month. This compared with a drop of 900 women. The Live Register figures includes unemployed, some part-time workers as well as seasonal and casual workers entitled to job-seeking benefits.

There were also 8,171 fewer young people - aged under 25 - signing on in July this year compared with the same time last year.

The Small Firms Association said while the apparent reduction in youth unemployment was positive, more still needs to be done to tackle the crisis. Acting director Avine McNally said: "This reduction is being influenced by emigration. Active labour policies are only part of the solution in reducing youth unemployment. A strong commitment and focus on education, growth and recovery is vital to ensure young people have future careers in Ireland."

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