Unemployment has fallen to levels not seen since recession and economic collapse hit Ireland in early 2008.
Official figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed 33,200 fewer people out of work at the start of this year, compared with the same time last year.
The unemployment rate is now down to 6.4%, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said, with 148,800 people classed as out of work, the lowest number in nine years.
"The labour market has begun the year in a very positive manner and I welcome the very strong employment growth that was recorded in the first quarter," Mr Noonan said.
"Employment gains of 68,600 (3.5%) clearly demonstrate that economic growth is generating significant dividends in the labour market. Indeed, it is noteworthy that full-time employment increased by over 84,000 in the first quarter and I particularly welcome this development.
"The policies that have been implemented by the Government continue to bear fruit. The objective in the months and years ahead is to enhance the resilience of the economy in order to protect these gains and generate more jobs in the future."
A breakdown of the labour market figures recorded in the CSO's Quarterly National Household Survey showed an 18.5% fall in the number of unemployed people in the year to the end of March.
It said that people who are classed as long- term unemployed after being out of work for a year or more now account for just over half the total number of jobless.
The CSO also said there are 2,191,400 people in the labour market.