Review urged as jobless total rises

The Government was urged to reassess its jobs strategy after the unemployment rate rose to 14.4%.

The Government was urged to reassess its jobs strategy after the unemployment rate rose to 14.4%.

Official figures revealed the long-term unemployed accounted for 56.3% of those out of work between July and September, with 177,200 people lingering on the dole queue for more than a year.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) said unemployment rose by 15,700 over the previous year to the third quarter, to 314,700.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said a major investment and job creation programme was urgently needed to combat rising unemployment.

Congress chief economist Paul Sweeney said Government had to focus all its energy on getting people back to work.

“We urgently need a major new jobs plan from Government,” he said.

“The continued imposition of austerity is decimating the economy and the recent Budget will only serve to make the situation worse. It will cost us more jobs.”

ISME, the Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association, called on the Government to reassess its jobs plan by putting emphasis on supporting enterprise and job creation.

Chief executive Mark Fielding said: “The recent Budget was lauded by Government as a Budget for jobs, it was anything but.

“Increasing costs to business through VAT, motor and carbon taxes and reducing the redundancy rebate sends out the wrong message to the employment creating enterprise sector.

“Businesses are now forced to look at ways to reduce costs even more, with remaining employment an obvious target.”

The CSO said the total number of people in the labour force was over 2.1 million in the third quarter of 2011 – down 30,200 over the year – with the total at work down 46,000 to 1.8 million.

The number of unemployed included 206,200 men and 108,600 women. It is the first time the number of women out of work rose above 100,000 since CSO figures began in 1998.

Analysts said the figures provided further evidence of the mounting problem of long-term unemployment.

"Overall, this update on the state of the jobs market paints a sobering picture of the Irish labour market," said Ulster Bank economist Simon Barry.

"While the overall economy has returned to positive economic growth in GDP terms, today’s numbers highlight that the resumption of employment growth remains elusive."

Business group IBEC said the latest Quarterly National Household Survey highlighted the urgent need to deliver reform.

Reetta Suonpera, IBEC’s senior economist, said: “Rising long-term unemployment and falling labour market participation means that Government must urgently deliver on reform of the employment services to help people get back into work and prevent the current high level of unemployment from becoming entrenched.”

The Small Firms Association (SFA) said the figures highlight the huge challenges that are being faced in saving jobs and in getting people back to work.

"Small businesses are continuing to struggle to save jobs as they have to cut costs further in the face of ongoing economic uncertainty in the Eurozone area and depressed economic activity in the domestic market," said SFA director Patricia Callan.

Ms Callan added that Callan commented that “recent measures announced in Budget 2012, in particular the rise in VAT by 2% at the higher rate will see further job losses in the retail sector after the Christmas sales period.

She also warned that the reduction of the redundancy rebate to employers from 60% to 15% is a "mistake" that would drive more small companies to the wall.

Fianna Fáil Employment Spokesman Willie O'Dea said the figures "put pay to the notice that the Government’s job initiative has had any success".

"The unemployment crisis is deepening and more action is needed to stimulate growth and job creation," Deputy O'Dea said.

"At the moment the Government’s efforts to tackle the unemployment crisis have failed and I am calling on them to change their strategy as a matter of urgency.”

His comments were echoed by Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín, who said the figures prove that the coalition is failing to tackle unemploymnent.

“The few small scale initiatives launched by the government are grossly disproportionate to the immense scale of the crisis," Deputy Tóibín said.

"The €20m job training programme launched in the Budget will create 6,500 short term training spaces at a time when over 5,000 people are losing their jobs or becoming unemployed each month," he added.

"At the same time the government will put 150 times this figure into the Anglo Promissory note in January.

“These figures demonstrate that this government is failing to tackle unemployment. It is time for them to start taking job creation seriously.”

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