Keep champagne on ice as youth joblessness is a worry
WE ARE not planning on breaking out the champagne. But neither should we too easily dismiss the latest data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which tell us that unemployment has continued to fall by a small but noticeable amount.
Ireland's jobless rate now stands at 13.7pc – down from an appalling high of 15pc in March 2012. The rate of employment has increased for the third successive quarter – something which has not happened since 2010.
In the 12 months to the end of March, employment increased by 20,500 or 1.1pc. The total number of people employed in the State now stands at 1.8 million.
These increases took place despite cuts in public sector jobs over the past year of about 5,000.
But this silver lining does come attached to a cloud. The CSO's Quarterly National Household Survey also showed that most employment gains have been part-time rather than full-time jobs.
Full-time employment fell by 3,700, or 0.3pc, in the year to the end of March, but part-time employment increased by 24,200 jobs, or 5.6pc.
The jobs crisis also continues to hit young workers disproportionately as all the growth has benefitted those aged 35 years and older. In fact, numbers of people over 35 in work are now back at the level they were at the peak of the boom in 2007.
By contrast, the numbers of under-35s in work has continued to fall in the same period. There are now 650,000 people under 35 employed – compared with one million in 2007.
That is a matter of huge concern to all of us. The Government has made much of recent EU initiatives to tackle youth unemployment. But the amounts being cited to fund various schemes appear too small and action too slow.
This is one area which requires urgent stimulus from the EU but also from national government. The only way out of this problem is education and training and especially upskilling and retraining where necessary.
As more of Ireland's financial affairs slowly but surely achieve more stability, we must see more immediate action on these fronts. Apart from the social need to deal with a future generation in danger of being cast aside, there is also the demand for skills to drive on this economy and take us out of recession.
No, there certainly is no call to pop champagne corks. But we must, nonetheless, look upon these latest figures as a source of hope.