The Department of Finance predicts that the number of people in employment will pass the 2m mark this quarter for the first time since 2008.
A 15th quarterly drop in a row in the numbers of people unemployed means that, in the space of just two years, the percentage of the labour force out of work has fallen from 12.1% to 8.3%.
According to the latest figures from the CSO, there were 1,976,500 people in employment as of the first quarter of this year. That is an increase of just under 47,000 or 2.4% over the course of the last year.
The Department of Finance said: “At just shy of the 2m mark it [employment] will likely break this threshold in Quarter 2.” Despite the rapid increase in the numbers in work, Ireland’s employment rate of 63.9% still lags behind the EU-28 average of 66%.
Furthermore, while Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the Government’s ambition is to help create 200,000 jobs by 2020, including 135,000 outside of Dublin, and that “supporting a balanced recovery across all regions and all sectors will help workers and their families feel the benefits of recovery”, Savills pointed out that 57% of the 47,000 new jobs created in the last year were in the capital.
A positive can be seen in the fall in the number of long-term unemployed — those who have been out of work for more than a year. That has fallen from 6% of the workforce to 4.7% in just one year. According to the CSO, long-term unemployment accounted for 56.1% of total unemployment in Q1 2016 compared with 59.7% a year earlier and 60.5% in the first quarter of 2014.
Alan McQuaid, of Merrion Capital, said: “Although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down, the labour market has improved dramatically over the past two/three years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery.”
The CSO figures showed that employment rose in 12 of the 14 economic sectors including construction which was up by 7.8% or 9,500 over the course of a year. Mr McQuaid said the pick-up in the construction was particularly encouraging given that it was the building industry that suffered the worst in the downturn.
“Consecutive gains in employment have been posted in the past three years and the Department of Finance is projecting that Ireland will pass the two million people in employment mark in 2016 and replace all of the jobs lost during the downturn by 2018,” he said.
“All in all, it is hard to disagree with this assumption. As regards unemployment, we are looking for an average jobless rate this year of 7.7% as against 9.4% in 2015.”
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