58,000 more people in work than a year ago

There are almost 1.9m people in work — the highest employment level since the autumn of 2009 — and experts are forecasting the figures will only get better in 2014.

However, those with jobs are earning an average of €16 or 2.5% less a week than they were 12 months ago.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show 58,000 more people had jobs at the end of September than at the same time last year. That meant the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 13.6% to 12.8% over that period.

What makes the figures even more welcome is the fact that, of the total 58,000 increase, 53,500 came about through people taking up full-time jobs and only 3,500 were part-time.

The total number of people who were unemployed in the third quarter of 2013 was 282,900 — that’s 41,700 less than 12 months earlier.

Long-term unemployment has been a significant problem throughout the economic decline of the last six years, but the CSO figures show the percentage of unemployed people who have been out of work for more than a year has fallen from 8.9% to 7.6% in the last 12 months.

However, long-term jobless still account for 58.4% of all unemployed people.

Alan McQuaid, an economist with Merrion Stockbrokers, pointed out that the average unemployment rate rose from 6.4% in 2008 to 14.7% in 2012.

“However, last year is forecast to be the worst of it, with the jobless rate appearing as though it has peaked,” he said.

“We are looking for improvement in 2013 with the average jobless rate now projected to fall back to 13.2% based on these latest official CSO figures and to continue declining towards 12.0% in 2014.”

Fergal O’Brien, Ibec’s head of policy and chief economist, said it was “spectacular and against all expectations” that employment was growing at around 2.5%, even though GDP is struggling to achieve over 1% growth.

“It is also very positive to see that there is a good sectoral spread in the jobs recovery. Agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and professional services/technology have been the strongest performers, but it is also really encouraging to see the recovery in construction employment,” he said.

“The Irish economy is now clearly performing very strongly again and all the indications from employers point to a continuation of the jobs recovery in 2014.”

The Taoiseach has said he hopes the unemployment rate will fall below 10% by 2016.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said: “There are still far too many people out of work, and tackling unemployment will remain the Government’s number- one priority, but these figures demonstrate that we are making steady progress. Especially important is the fact that the majority of people returning to work are returning to full-time employment, as today’s figures demonstrate.

The CSO also released figures on average earnings across the economy.

They showed that average weekly earnings dropped from €691.93 in the third quarter of 2012 to €675.53 in the same period this year.

In the private sector, the decrease was 1.4%; while in the public sector the drop was 1.1%.

That brought average weekly earnings in the third quarter of this year to €606.97 and €915.88 respectively.


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