THE economic downturn has caused job losses in every town in Ireland with more than 200,000 people claiming the dole — the highest figure for nine years.
There were 48,000 more people signing on the dole in the space of 12 months, the biggest increase ever recorded, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
Employers body IBEC said it was clear the economic slowdown was affecting more industries than the construction sector. The CSO records the number of people signing on for job seekers’ payments and other unemployment and social welfare credits.
The latest figures show the total number of people claiming the dole increased by 30% in the 12 months to May 2008, reaching 207,300 — the number of men went up by 38%.
Overall, the jobless rate stands at 5.4% and Bloxham Stockbrokers warned the situation is “likely to get worse before it gets better”. The company’s chief executive Alan McQuaid forecast the unemployment rate would rise to 6% by the end of the year.
An economist with Ulster Bank, Lynsey Clemenger, said trends in the number of females signing on provided an insight into the health of the labour market outside of construction.
“Females made up 3,400 or 45% of the total increase in claimants in May, implying that job losses are continuing to spread outside the construction sector, and into the female-dominated services sector,” she said. “We anticipate that this trend will continue in coming months, in addition to continued knock-on effects on employment in the industries linked to construction.”
Speaking in Dublin, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the employment figures were “a sign of more uncertain times” and there was a need for Ireland to take “a responsible view going forward”.
On the possible detrimental economic affects for Ireland if voters rejected the Lisbon treaty, he said: “There’s absolutely no doubt when you look at what role Europe is playing in us having unhindered access to a much bigger market. It’s brought more jobs, more investment, more trade. There’s an international downturn. We’re feeling that, other countries are as well. Thankfully our employment’s still relatively low compared to our competitors but there’s absolutely no room for complacency.”
However, Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar rejected claims of a Europe-wide loss of jobs.
“The Government claims rising unemployment is an international phenomenon, but job losses are actually falling across most of Europe,” he said. “Ireland is only one of two EU countries where unemployment has risen in the last year. The Republic used to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, but now has a bigger unemployment problem than 11 other EU countries, including Britain.”
He said Enterprise Minister Mary Coughlan must make a statement to the Dáil on the “emerging crisis”.
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