Latest data, published yesterday by the CSO, showed that 4,300 people came off the Live Register last month and back into work, reducing the seasonally adjusted total still on the register to 355,600. The number of long-term unemployed fell from 164,844 in January to 162,776 last month.
The Government said the figures show the economic recovery is improving, with each person returning to employment saving the exchequer roughly €20,000 per year via reduced social welfare payments and increased tax revenue.
It is targeting an unemployment rate of under 10% by the end of this year and so-called “full employment” by the end of 2018. That is taken to mean an unemployment rate of 3%to 5%.
“Assuming the economy continues to grow strongly in 2015, as we expect, an average jobless rate of 9.7% is now envisaged for this year, with the figure likely to be running around the 9% level come December,” said Alan McQuaid, chief economist with Merrion Stockbrokers.
Employment grew 0.5% in the final quarter of 2014 and Davy Stockbrokers said that after this week’s strong exchequer returns and recent strong jobs data from IDA Ireland, “there is no reason to doubt the official unemployment figures”.
However, small firms lobby group Isme has warned “incessant” calls by unions for wage increases risk impeding job creation in the SME sector.
Furthermore, Investec noted a widening in the amount of over-25s to those under that age on the register, suggesting the data remains heavily skewed by a mix of emigration and extended education.
“All in all, this release [yesterday’s CSO statistics] has a sense of deja-vu to it, with the unemployment rate steadily reducing as the economy recovers, but continued indications that not all parts of the labour force are benefiting from this equally,” said chief economist, Philip O’Sullivan.
He said that while the long-term unemployment level is reducing, it remains very high and a concerning issue.