The number of people at work rose for the first time in four years during the last three months of 2011.
The latest Quarterly National Household Survey published by the CSO shows 1,807,800 people were in employment in December — up 10,000 on the previous quarter when seasonally adjusted and the first increase since the end of 2007.
The survey reveals a general stabilisation of both employment and unemployment levels as well as of movements within the labour force. The overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 14.6%.
However, the total number of people in work fell by 15,400 in the year to the end of 2011, while the number of unemployed rose 3,000 to 302,000.
All of the annual jobless increase was accounted for by a rise in the number of unemployed females, while most of the decline in the number of people out of work was attributed to a decrease in labour participation by self-employed people.
The number of self-employed people, at 285,000, is the lowest since 1998.
The 0.8% decrease in the numbers employed is the lowest decline since June 2008 and compares with the 3.4% reduction at the end of 2010.
More worryingly, the number of long-term unemployed — people out of work for longer than 12 months — has continued to increase. The figure rose by almost 5,000 over the previous quarter to reach a total of 182,100.
Long-term unemployment now accounts for more than 60% of all people out of work, compared to just 33.3% in 2009.
Employment fell in eight of 14 sectors during 2011 with the biggest decreases in education, wholesale and retail and transport and storage. However, there was a strong rise in the number of people working in the IT sector — up 5,800 or 8.4%.
It is estimated that there was net emigration of 34,100 people in the year to Apr 2011.
Ulster Bank chief economist Simon Barry said the results revealed some encouraging signs, with job growth in the food and tourism sectors. However, he said the figures still documented “another very weak year for the Irish jobs market”.
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