The unemployment rate eased back slightly towards the end of the summer, new official figures show.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) put the rate from July to September at 14.8%, down just 0.1%, but it also warned that the crisis of long-term unemployment is getting worse. That figure increased slightly by 0.1% to 8.9% in the 12 months to the third quarter.
The CSO's quarterly national household survey found that there were 324,500 unemployed during this period - down 3,600 in the year. It found that long-term unemployment accounted for 59.5% of the total out of work in the third quarter compared with 58.4% a year earlier and 49.1% in the same period in 2010.
Despite indications from the CSO figures that the unemployment rate was easing for the first time since before the recession hit, the report also showed that the numbers in the overall labour market are down 7,900 over the year. The annual fall in the labour market to the same period last year was 23,000.
Paul Sweeney, chief economist with Congress, said the underlying picture from the figures was chilling.
"Again, we see a further fall in employment and even less people at work in the economy," Mr Sweeney said. "This downward trend has not altered, which makes it abundantly clear that official policy must change in next week's budget. It is vital that investment is not cut further but increased. There are also other worrying indicators, such as a male unemployment rate that is some three percentage points above the national rate."
Elsewhere in the CSO report, employment fell in five of the 14 economic sectors over the year. Construction was worst hit, down 6.8% or 7,400, with transportation and storage, down 6.6% or 6,300, and administration and support services, down 4.1% or 2,900.
However, the industrial sector showed the greatest actual decline in the number of people in employment - down year on year by 7,900 or 3.3%. The report also showed full-time employment fell by 16,300 over the year from 1.4 million to 1.39m while part-time employment increased by 12,000 to 446,300.
Marie Sherlock, economist with trade union Siptu, rejected claims from business groups of signs of stabilisation in the jobs crisis. "Young people continue to be worst hit by the economic crisis, with 17,000 fewer persons in employment aged between 20 and 35 over the 12 months to the beginning of October," she said.
She put much of the change down to retirement and emigration. "Three-quarters of the fall in employment was offset by people leaving the labour force," she said. "The high number of people retiring accounts for a significant proportion of those leaving the workforce, but there are now also 20,000 fewer persons in the labour force aged between 25 and 34 compared to the same period in 2011."