Long-term jobless rate tops 160,000
The number of people languishing on the dole for a year or more surged past 160,000 last year, official figures have revealed.
Some 50,200 additional people were on benefits for longer than 12 months at the end of 2011 with the long term unemployed now accounting for more than half those out-of-work.
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) the unemployment rate is 14% - down from 14.8%.
Jobs minister Richard Bruton warned that emigration continued to be a drain on the economy and country as well as long term unemployment.
"I am determined to urgently implement a series of reforms to reduce business costs, increase access to finance and to encourage and support innovation in every way possible," he said.
"The public sector, as a major economic actor in its own right, also has a key role in providing leadership in each of these areas and it is crucial that job creation becomes the top priority of organisations across government in a very real way.
"It took many years of misguided policies to get our country into the jobs crisis we face now and it will take a number of years of the right policies to get us out of it. That is why there isn't a moment to lose in driving on with the reforms and policy changes needed to help turn our shared fortunes around."
The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) said there were 295,700 people unemployed in the first quarter of 2011. More than half of all those on the dole, 169,900 or 57.5%, are in the 25-44 age group.
The report warned that the long term unemployment crisis at the end of last year hit levels not seen since the late 1990s and accounted for more than half the total on the dole. In the first three months of this year it had increased from 5.3% to 7.8%.
Ulster Bank analysis of the figures suggested that the peak of the jobs crisis was in the final few months of last year. In a separate report on the jobs crisis, the CSO said that unemployment increased by 212,000 in the six years to 2011 - 4.2% to 14.1%.