Belfast Telegraph

Drop in benefits claimants welcomed

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits fell last month, new figures have revealed.

Some 430,900 people signed on the Live Register in December - a drop of 1,400 from the previous month.

The seasonally adjusted figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed a monthly drop of 1,800 males on the dole and an increase of 400 females. Despite the slight drop in December, the standardised unemployment rate of 14.6% remained unchanged from November.

Chambers Ireland said the figures were proof the country was slowly, but steadily on the road to recovery.

Chief executive Ian Talbot said an increase in tax receipts, a boost in retail sales and Ireland's success in meeting its Troika targets were all confirmation it was on the right track.

"This week's news has been positive but must still be seen in the context of the continued enormous current account deficit of over a billion euro a month," Mr Talbot added. "We cannot afford to ease up on the continued public sector reform program needed to get the country back on its feet permanently."

The latest CSO figures also showed the number of long-term claimants on the Live Register - which includes unemployed, part-time and casual workers - increased slightly from the same period last year.

The number of people claiming benefits for longer than a year rose by 6,346 to 187,144 in December. The majority of those signing on - 55.8% - were short-term claimants.

Trade union Siptu warned that while the statistics were to be welcomed, they hid the impact of emigration. Economist for the organisation Marie Sherlock said an exodus of around 8,000 craft workers from the Live Register accounted for almost three-quarters of the fall in numbers signing on during 2012. She said many of those had presumably left the country.

Ms Sherlock added that two out of three people who came off the register were aged under 25, suggesting many of them went on to back-to-education schemes. She said: The real test will be to retain these workers at decent rates of pay and conditions. During 2013 the challenge for the Government will be to tackle the major issue of long-term unemployment. The number signing on for 12 months or more has receded from the 200,000 mark recorded in July and August of 2012 but the share remains at a very substantial level of 44% of the Live Register."

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