JOBLESS numbers continued to rise in recent months and more people became long-term unemployed as they entered a second year out of work.
The increase in the number of unemployed was the smallest for the last two years but that glimmer of hope was dimmed by other figures showing people leaving the country in numbers not seen since 1989.
The figures come from the latest calculations by the Central Statistics Office covering the second quarter of the year — the months April to June — and show the unemployment rate rose to 13.2%, up from 12.9% in the first quarter, bringing it to its highest level since 1994.
It means a total of 293,600 people were unemployed by June this year — 29,000 more than the same time last year although that was the lowest annual increase in unemployment since the middle of 2008.
Unemployment figures don’t tell the whole story, however, as they don’t take into account the fact that tens of thousands of other workers are having to make do with part-time jobs. Full-time employment declined by 83,200 in the 12 months up to June this year.
Neither do the unemployment statistics include the tens of thousands not counted because they have left the country, have entered full time education, have become full-time homemakers or have left the work force for other reasons.
Experts offered different interpretations of the figures. Ronnie O’Toole, chief economist at National Irish Bank, said: “The figures released today give some hope for optimism.” He pointed out that the job losses were, as expected, mainly in construction and manufacturing which lost 3,000 and 5,000 jobs respectively in the second quarter, while employment in the services industries was virtually unchanged.
However, Davy Stockbrokers said that estimates of the numbers signing on last month put the unemployment rate up again to 13.8%, a worsening of the situation since June. “This suggests that Q3will bring worse news than Q2.”
Alan McQuaid, chief economist with Bloxham Stockbrokers, said it looked like the jobless rate would hit 14% before the end of the year, peaking at as much as 14.5% sometime next year.
“The data are still a sobering reminder to the Government of the current very weak state of the labour market,” he said. “Further losses in the construction, financial services and retail sectors seem inevitable over the next few months.”
Ulster Bank predicted a peak of 14% but said it expected the rate would stabilise by the end of the year. Commentators agreed on the significance of the increase in the number of long-term unemployed, which rose by 5.9% in the 12 months up to June to 127,000 people.
That means that more than two in five of all the unemployed (43.3%) have been out of work for over a year. Said Davys: “This is the highest level since at least 1997 and poses a major public policy challenge.”
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