Unemployment falls to 10.6% in December

The latest Live Register release from the CSO shows that the seasonally adjusted Irish standardised unemployment rate (SUR) fell by 10bps m/m to 10.6% in December.

While the rate is still high in absolute terms, it is steadily moving in the right direction – indeed, the SUR fell in every single month during 2014 and by 160bps over the year. The seasonally adjusted number of people on the register, at 363,900, was -3,300 m/m extending the run of sequential declines in the number of people ‘signing on’ to 20 months.

The total number of people on the Live Register fell by 9.9% over the course of 2014 and is now 18.9% below the August 2011 peak of 448,800. The positive trends in hiring (total employment has increased for eight successive quarters) has been a key driver of this, but there is no denying that emigration and extended stays in higher education have also played supporting roles in producing this outcome.

The ratio of over-25 year olds to under-25 year olds on the Live Register as an indicator on the extent to which young people in particular are still looking at opportunities outside the Irish labour market. In December this widened yet again to 6.14:1 from 6.05:1 in November. At the end of 2013 it was 5.43:1 while before the crisis it was as low as 3.53:1 (December 2008). Providing opportunities for young people to enter the workforce should be a key priority for policymakers, particularly given the negative effects of the hiring embargoes of recent years (indeed, a report in today’s Irish Times says that only 1% of Irish Rail’s workforce is under the age of 30). Over the course of 2014 the number of people aged 25 and over on the Live Register declined by 8.4% while the number of people under the age of 25 fell by 19.0%.

Another serious issue is the problem of long-term unemployment. In December 46.3% of those on the Live Register had been on it for more than 12 months (December 2013: 45.4%) and while the number of people on it for more than 12 months fell by 14,825 (-8.3%) over the course of last year, at 166,796 it is still very elevated in absolute terms.  In this regard the number of people on Activation Programmes targeted mainly at the long-term unemployed rose by only 422 between November 2013 and November 2014 (when it stood at 86,160). People on Activation Programmes are not counted as part of the monthly Live Register.

Provided by: Philip O’Sullivan

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