UNEMPLOYMENT fell by record levels last month -- but analysts last night indicated this was largely due to the equally record levels of people forced to leave the country to find work.
The number of people signing on fell by 6,900 in January -- the largest seasonally adjusted drop on record -- pushing the unemployment rate down to 13.4pc.
However, there has been a big increase in long-term unemployment in the past year with one in three of those on the live register out of work for more than a year, new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveal.
And economists said much of the drop was due to soaring emigration.
"The trend probably has more to do with increased emigration and generally lower labour force participation than a pick-up in job prospects," Bloxham stockbrokers analyst Alan McQuaid told the Irish Independent.
Mr McQuaid added the severe Budget measures were unlikely to improve consumer spending, which would weigh heavily on the labour market this year.
He also predicted unemployment would not rise above 14pc, but mainly because emigration would limit it.
Of the 442,677 people signing on last month, some 64pc are short-term claimants who have been on the dole for less than a year -- down from 76pc last January. Long-term unemployment has risen by 56pc in the past year to 160,000, far faster than the 1.3pc increase in the overall numbers signing on.
White collar workers are faring better than blue collar workers, with big reductions in the numbers of professional, managerial and clerical staff on the dole over the past year, the CSO figures show. Another 4,893 people were made redundant last month, higher than in recent months but down 25pc compared with the previous January, figures from the Department of Social Protection showed.
The Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said that while the latest figures might suggest the unemployment problem was easing, this was a false hope as so many were emigrating or re-entering education.