Irish unemployment rate of 8.6 at mid-table in EU league

Ireland’s unemployment fell to 8.6% in January — the lowest rate for more than seven years and down from a crisis peak of 15.1% in February 2012 — but remains only around the mid-table of the EU’s jobless performance league.

Figures also published yesterday from Eurostat, which compiles the EU jobless rates but only as of December, show the average EU unemployment rate stood at 9% at the end of the year.

The average rate includes the Czech Republic and Germany with the lowest jobless rates of 4.5% and features Croatia, Spain, and Greece with rates of 16.5%, 20.8%, and 24.5% respectively — the three highest in the EU.

The UK — one of Ireland’s largest trading partners —had a jobless rate of 5.1% at the end of the year, according to Eurostat.

Countries with lower rates than Ireland’s also include Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg, Hungary, Estonia, Netherlands, Romania, Poland, Sweden, Belgium, and Lithuania.

Eurostat said that, in December 2015, the average rate of unemployment in the 19 states in the eurozone stood at 10.4%.

Eurozone states with higher unemployment than Ireland’s include Finland, France, Latvia, Slovakia, and Italy.

Ireland has the lowest rate of unemployment of the eurozone states that received some sort of official bailout during the financial crisis.

Portugal, with a rate of 11.8%, has also seen large falls in unemployment in recent years.

Eurostat said that 21.94m people were unemployed across the 28 EU states in December of whom 16.75m live in the 19 eurozone states.

Capital Economics in London said the fall in eurozone unemployment was encouraging “but the rate remains too high to boost wage growth” adding that there were still “deflationary pressures in the pipeline”.

Data published next week will probably confirm the eurozone economy grew for an 11th straight quarter at the end of 2015.

While the pace of expansion has been modest, joblessness is slowly declining.

“The job-market outlook in a nutshell is quite robust,” said Frederik Ducrozet, an economist at Banque Pictet.

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