Unemployment rate jumps to 7.8% in November

The standardised unemployment rate in Ireland has increased sharply to 7.8% over the past month, according to the latest CSO figures.

The standardised unemployment rate in Ireland has increased sharply to 7.8% over the past month, according to the latest CSO figures.

The statistics agency says the number of people on the Live Register increased by almost 17,000 to 277,200 in November.

Over the past year, the numbers signing on the dole have increased by almost 107,000, or 66%.

Last month's increase was made up of 13,600 male workers and 3,300 female workers.

Leading economists have warned 10% of the workforce could be unemployed by the end of next year.

Jim Curran, head of research at independent business group Isme, called for the pay deal to be suspended and local charges frozen as employers struggle to cope.

“The latest figures, together with the dramatic fall in taxation revenue, confirm that the economy is in dire straits,” he said.

“Unless immediate action is taken on a number of fronts to address the situation the number of job losses announced to date will accelerate, putting further pressure on the already weakened public finances.”

IBEC’s Retail Ireland said the sector, which employs 300,000 people, has been hit by the largest year-on-year decline in sales in more than 20 years.

Torlach Denihan, the group’s director, said: “In view of rising unemployment and a declining property market, consumers are cautious and reluctant to spend money.

“This has been aggravated by a loss of business to the North due to the weakness of sterling and the now 6.5% difference in the VAT rate.

“It is now approximately one-third more expensive to run a retail business here than in the North.”

Ibec has called for a meeting with the Tánaiste Mary Coughlan to address the huge difficulties.

Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael’s enterprise spokesman, called for tax reform to tackle the economic downturn.

“Our proposal is that, for 2009, employers should be exempt from paying PRSI on any additional staff that they take on,” he said.

“This would involve a minimal cost to the Exchequer, but would go a long way to minimising the impact of the recession.”

Fine Gael said the estimated cost to the Exchequer was negligible.

Willie Penrose, Labour enterprise spokesman, accused the Government of a lack of leadership in the fight to save jobs.

“It would seem that the worse the news gets, the more the Government are inclined to stick their heads in the sand and hope that the problem will go away,” the Labour TD said.

The party also repeated calls for the Government to adopt its ideas to keep people in work including a nationwide school building programme and house insulation scheme.

Sinn Féin’s Arthur Morgan called for a 2% cut in VAT and renewed focus on public projects.

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