Belfast Telegraph

Slight rise in unemployment total

The unemployment rate jumped slightly to 13.4% at the end of last year, official figures revealed.

The number of people signing on rose by just over 12,000 in December, taking the overall total on the Live Register to 437,079.

The Central Statistics Office said about one third of people on the dole are now classed as long-term unemployed after signing on for a year or longer. More than 42,600 new people applied for welfare payments last month.

Meanwhile, major firms reported to the Department of Enterprise that 2,870 people were laid off in December.

Labour's Willie Penrose said the rise was grim New Year news for workers.

"While the export statistics and the exchequer figures published this week showed some recovery in the multinational sector, the Live Register figures show that there is a still a huge problem in the domestic economy and with unemployment levels," he said. "Job creation and the needs of those without jobs have received virtually no attention from (Taoiseach) Brian Cowen and his government. Mass unemployment is the political epitaph for this government."

Youth Work Ireland said the CSO report continued to suggest that young people were emigrating instead of signing on. Michael McLoughlin, the group's spokesman, said: "The spectre of emigration is a major social tragedy and seems to be accepted as almost an Irish solution to an Irish problem. This must be challenged."

Some 81,000 under-25s were on the Live Register in December, down 3,118 in the year.

The CSO report showed the total number on the register fell steadily from the peak of 466,900 in August until the latest unexpected increase in December.

Eamon O Cuiv, Minister for Social Protection, said the rise in numbers signing on was down to seasonal factors including people working in education taking extended breaks, those who do not get holiday pay and businesses which shut down over Christmas. "The adverse weather conditions in December would also have affected certain sectors, such as the construction sector," he said. "It's definitely not the way I wanted it to go."

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