Siptu questions reason for fall in unemployment

A Siptu economist has said it is unclear how much the fall in the unemployment rate announced today is due to new jobs, training or emigration.

The Live Register has continued to fall slightly, reaching 12.4%, official figures have revealed.

The number of people signing on the for benefits fell by 28,322 over the course of last year with the total number of people on the dole at 395,411.

Siptu's Marie Sherlock said: “Today’s figures also indicate the continuance of a worrying trend. Throughout 2012 and 2013, we have seen that men have been leaving the Live Register in considerably greater numbers than women.

“While the general decrease in Live Register numbers is a positive, focus must remain on ensuring the quality of training and employment which is being taken up is of a decent standard.

“A major step in this direction would be the introduction of an expanded and improved national apprenticeship scheme.”

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he was encouraged by the latest unemployment figures, which he said showed declines over the last 16 months.

He said no one in their late teens or 20s should be “idle” and insisted it is up to the Government to deliver education and training opportunities for those out of work.

“The key thing we want to be able to offer every young person that is unemployed is a job, and if not we want to be able to offer them education or training,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Really nobody, particularly nobody in their late teens and 20s, should be idle and it’s the role of Government to make sure there are jobs to go to. And if not, there are education or training opportunities.”

The report from the Central Statistics Office also showed that the number of people signing on for a year or more was down 4% over the course of last year to 179,621.

The number of men on the register in December was 245,721 compared to 149,690 women.

It also showed under 25s on the dole now make up almost 15% of the total signing on and the figure has fallen by less than 1% over the course of the year.

The unemployment rate of 12.4% is the lowest since June 2009.

Business leaders welcomed the cut in unemployment but demanded the Government introduce concrete long-term measures to tackle joblessness.

Isme, which represents small and medium-sized firms, pointed out long-term claimants still account for a “stubborn” 45% of all those on the dole.

“Government must make reducing the high level of long-term unemployment its full year’s resolution,” said Mark Fielding, Isme chief executive.

“A key obstacle preventing people from returning to work and hindering the creation of employment by SMEs is the social welfare trap.

“Anomalies in the welfare system must be addressed immediately to create a business environment where it is always economically advantageous for people to work.”

High rents, wages and business costs along with increased black market activity and crime against traders were also hindering smaller businesses from growing and taking on more staff, claimed Mr Fielding.

Davy Stockbrokers said 2013 will be seen as a turning point in the unemployment crisis with job creation at its fastest since 2007.

Avine McNally, acting director of the Small Firms Association, said emigration was influencing the number of young people on the dole and active labour policies are only part of the solution.

“A strong commitment and focus on education, growth and recovery is vital to ensure young people have future careers in Ireland,” she said.

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