Belfast Telegraph

Gilmore welcomes jobless figures

The number of people claiming benefits should fall to below 400,000 by the end of the year, a minister has claimed.

Social protection minister Joan Burton said while the unemployment rate was still far too high, another monthly drop in figures showed progress was being made.

She revealed the state saves 95 million euro when 10,000 people leave the live register.

"I am confident we will see the live register fall beneath 400,000 later this year for the first time since May 2009, when the previous administration was lurching further into economic chaos and towards the Troika bailout," she said.

Official figures revealed the unemployment rate fell slightly to 13.3% in September, with 408,670 people on the live register - some 20,000 less than a year earlier.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) report said the numbers included 188,881 long-term unemployed.

But opponents maintained immigration had influenced the figures, particularly a 10% drop in the number of young people signing on the dole.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore described the figures as very good news.

"We are seeing jobs being created at a rate of about 3,000 a month," he said.

"We want to continue that.

"We want to accelerate that.

"In particular, we want to put a sharp focus on getting employment opportunities for young people.

"That's why we have the Youth Guarantee and that's why we are working on proposals to get young people into employment where jobs are not available for them, into education and training."

Elsewhere, the Central Bank has forecast the unemployment rate will be 13.6% this year and 13% next year.

Sinn Fein senator David Cullinane accused the government of spin while communities felt the bite of policies that had maintained high unemployment and emigration.

"The decrease in the live register of 1,800 must be viewed in the context of the 1,700 people who emigrate on average every week," he said.

"Over three times the amount of people emigrated than came off the live register.

"The reality is that government policy is holding down the domestic economy, failing business and promoting emigration."

Avine McNally, of the Small Firms Association, said the drop in under-25s signing on was influenced by emigration.

"Active labour policies are only part of the solution in reducing youth unemployment," she added.

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

Davy Stockbrokers also said emigration was playing a big part in the improved figures, but agreed the momentum of job creation continued into the second half of the year.

"The majority of those leaving the register have been claiming benefits for less than one year - illustrated in the larger 7.1% fall in short-term claimants in the year to September," Davy said,

"Many of the unemployed are former construction workers, illustrating the skills mismatch in a jobs market currently creating more jobs in the services sector."

The unemployment rate, which is based on the live register and which included 82,295 casual, part-time and seasonal workers who signed on, has shown a steady decline since it peaked in February last year.

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