A report from the global financial organisation said that when under-employed people were counted, the jobless figure stood at 23%.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan tried to shoot down the figure as he cited two job creation moves taken by the Government — water metering and the Taoiseach’s numerous foreign trips.
“They [the IMF] probably added the training figures as well as the part-time employees onto that list when we deal with the live register figures of 14%.
“And every action of the Government is to ensure that we create jobs. That is why we are not taxing work,” he told RTÉ.
“The Government would agree that 14% unemployment based on our live register is far too high. The Taoiseach and Tánaiste are touring the world over the past two years in order to bring more work for our people.”
The minister also cited the introduction of water metering next year as part of the Government’s initiatives to create work.
“We are providing the infrastructure of the future, including water, to ensure that we are able to cope and be able take on more inward investment in this country.
“One of the first things that any inward investor asks about is water quality and quantities, and a lot of the industries we rare attracting require a very top infrastructure level.”
In unusually firm language, the IMF review of the Irish economy noted: “If involuntary part-time workers and workers only marginally attached to the labour force — two groups that registered significant increases — are also accounted for the unemployment and underemployment rate stands at a staggering 23%.”
The comments came as the latest live register figures showed 44% of the 426,100 people listed were now long-term unemployed.
While the number of people claiming unemployment benefit fell by 2,200 in March, the overall figure remained at 14%. The number of claimants on the live register fell 8,966 in the year — a decline of 2.1% on an unadjusted basis.
Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman, warned ministers that they needed to heed the IMF call to do more to bring down jobless totals.
“Long-term unemployment in particular is a grave concern; the Government needs to give the private sector help to create jobs, such as action on upward only rents and bringing down energy costs,” he said.