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Unemployment rate falls to 7.2%

The unemployment rate fell to 7.2% at the end of last year.

Official figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed that 157,700 people were out of work in December - down 35,500 over the course of 2016.

The report also showed that the unemployment rate for young people aged 15 to 24 was 14.5%.

The CSO figures revealed that the number of people out of work is now at its lowest level since the country was in the grip of economic crisis in 2008.

The rate came down steadily in the second half of last year and compares to 8.9% in December 2015 and 8.4% in April 2016 and a peak of more than 15% in early 2012.

Ian Talbot, chief executive of business group Chambers Ireland, warned about the high levels of youth unemployment.

"High youth unemployment remains as a legacy of the recession and needs to be addressed. Increasing opportunities for young people starting out in the workplace is important not only for economic reasons but is essential for the future social cohesion of Ireland," he said.

Mr Talbot called for youth unemployment to be a specific focus of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs this year.

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