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Jobless rate continues to decline - CSO

Ireland's unemployment rate is continuing to fall and last month was down 10pc on December 2013.

But more than 356,000 people are still signing on the dole, the latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show.

Nearly 40,000 people came off the dole last year, almost three quarters of them men, the report says.

It shows 29,382 men came off unemployment benefits during 2014, compared with 9,917 women.

But men still far outnumber women in the dole queues, with 216,339 men signing on last month compared with 139,773 women.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) said more Government action could help its members create up to 60,000 jobs.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding called for a cut in employers' PRSI rates.

"The economy is certainly showing fragile signs of recovery and the focus of SMEs is slowly switching from survival to revival mode," he said.

"However, increasing State- influenced business costs ... are hampering the recovery."

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said every person who comes off the dole saves the State around €20,000-a-year, helping put money back in people's pockets through tax cuts and improved public services.

But he said many people are not yet feeling the effects of the recovery.

"With unemployment still above 10pc we have a long way to go," Mr Bruton added.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste and Social Welfare Minister Joan Burton said applications are now being accepted for the new Back to Work Family Dividend scheme, which allows people returning to work to keep getting welfare payments for their children.