Unemployment drops to lowest level in 8 years as jobs growth continues to soar – Varadkar

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New figures showing unemployment at its lowest level since 2008 have been welcomed by Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar who has pledged to drive further progress in this area in the year ahead.

“In every month last year the unemployment level fell by more than 3,300 people. This is a really significant result for the many individuals and families who were blighted by the crash years, and shows that our policies to tackle unemployment are getting results. This Government intends to make even more progress in the year ahead,” Minister Varadkar said.

“Unemployment is now at its lowest level since the second quarter of 2008, falling by 21.4% in the 12 months to the end of last year, a drop of 40,000 people to 147,400. Long-term unemployment also fell by 22%, a drop of 2,500 to 79,700. Significantly, the proportion of long-term unemployed also fell, showing that more people are unemployed for a shorter period. I also welcome the fall in youth unemployment.

“This year I intend to move more people from welfare to work, and make more progress towards our long-term target of reducing unemployment to 5-6%, and reducing long-term unemployment to below 2.5%.

“That’s why we will publish the Action Plan for Jobless Families this year allowing us to zero in on long-term and intergenerational unemployment. I will also reform and recalibrate local activation programmes like Community Employment, TÚS and Gateway to reflect the changes in the economy and labour market, and place a greater focus on social inclusion and those who find it hardest to secure and hold down a job. And we will develop and launch a new work experience programme to replace JobBridge.”

Other measures underway include:
• more intensive one-to-one engagements with jobseekers;
• making work pay through sustainable wage increases, effective tax reductions and new social insurance measures like paternity benefit;
• supporting more people to enter self-employment and set up their own business or practice;
• using initiatives like JobsWeek to match jobseekers with employers;
• promoting financial supports like JobsPlus and the Wage Subsidy Scheme;
• and developing initiatives across the whole of Government in education, training, housing and childcare.

The main findings of the QNHS are as follows:

• Employment increased by 65,100 or 3.3% in the year to the fourth quarter of 2016, bringing total employment over 2 million to 2,048,100 persons. This continues the upward trend since Q4 2012 and is the seventeenth consecutive quarter where employment has grown on an annual basis. The annual increase was made up of an increase in male (+40,700 or +3.8%) and female employment (+24,400 or +2.7%) in the year.

• On a seasonally adjusted basis, employment increased by 16,700 (+0.8%) over the previous quarter, and is up 212,000 since the trough in mid-2012.

• The Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate is down from 7.8% to 7.1% over the quarter. The unemployment rate was 9.1% for the same quarter last year.

- Reflecting the QNHS results, the previously published monthly seasonally adjusted unemployment rate estimate for January 2017 has been revised from 7.1% to 6.8%.

• Full-time employment was up 71,900 (+4.7%), and part-time employment was down 6,800 (-1.5%) over the year.

• Sectors of employment: Employment increased across all 14 sectors year-on-year. The largest rates of increase were recorded in the Construction sector (+9.2% or 11,600) and the Professional, scientific and technical activities sector (+5.7% or 6,800).

• Unemployment decreased by 40,000 (-21.4%) in the year to Q4 2016, bringing the total number of unemployed people down to 147,400. This continues the decline first seen in Q3 2012 (18 quarters).

• Long-term unemployment decreased by 22,500 (-22.0%) in the year to Q4 2016, bringing total long-term unemployment to 79,700. In Q4 2016 long-term unemployment accounted for 54.0% of total unemployment compared to 54.5% in Q4 2015 and 57.8% in Q4 2014. The long-term unemployment rate decreased from 4.7% to 3.6% over the year.

• Youth unemployment (ages 15-24) decreased from from 18.9% to 15.2% over the year to Q4 2016.