10,000 a week joining dole queues
More than 10,000 people have joined the dole queues every week since the beginning of the new year, the latest figures show.
Despite the massive jump in numbers claiming jobseeker allowances, officials said there was a slight drop overall in the number of people signing.
This is because of closed claims - including those who have taken up work or who have been forced to leave the country for a new life - and movements between back-to-work and further education schemes.
Just over 3,000 people came off the live register between December and January, bringing the total number of claimants to 439,600. The number signing on for unemployment benefits represents just over 14% of the total workforce.
The Central Statistics Office report shows an overall drop in the number of men signing on against a surge in women claiming benefits over the past year. More than 8,000 men came off the dole since the same time last year - a dip of almost 3%, down to nearly 284,000. Over the same period, the number of women signing on rose by more than 5,000, up to almost 156,000 - or a 3.3% jump.
The number of long-term claimants stands at nearly 184,000 people. There have been significant increases in men (12%) and women (21%) claiming benefits for a year or more. A general downward trend over the last two years in the number of claimants aged under 25 is continuing, alongside a slowing down in the numbers aged over 25 signing on.
This has been attributed to the increasing emigration of younger people as well as claimants being shifted on to other schemes. There were more than 42,000 new registrants on the live register last month, including more than 24,000 men and almost 18,000 women.
Business lobby group Ibec warned that the live register numbers remain exceptionally high. Fergal O'Brien, the organisation's chief economist, said: "New initiatives are needed to unlock domestic demand and encourage households that can afford to, to spend and invest rather than save. There are steps the Government can take to stimulate the domestic economy, even in the face of constrained public finances."
Trade union umbrella organisation Congress described the unemployment level as a national emergency. Paul Sweeney, Congress economic adviser, said there was no comfort to be taken in the overall small drop in the live register figures, which was "almost certainly" down to emigration and people dropping out of the workforce.
"The level of unemployment in Ireland is so high that it really is a national emergency," he said. "And the growing numbers of long-term unemployed - up by a substantial 24,000 in just one year - is very worrying." Mr Sweeney said bold and dramatic action was needed from the Government.