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Number of employed people rose by 3.5% last year – CSO

The number of people in employment rose by 3.5% in the year to December, according to the latest figures in the Labour Force Survey from the Central Statistics Office.

The Labour Force Survey is the official source of data for employment and unemployment in Ireland.

A total of 2,361,200 people were in employment at the end of last year, up 79,900 on the previous year. 

Unemployment fell by 14.2% or 18,300 to 110,600 over the same period – the 30th quarter in a row where joblessness has declined on an annual basis.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 5% in the third quarter of last year to 4.7% in the fourth quarter, the CSO figures also showed.

The total number of people in the labour force in the fourth quarter of last year increased by 2.6% to 2,471,700 from the fourth quarter of 2018.

Employment growth was also recorded in all of the country’s eight regions.

The jobless rate stood at 4.8% at the end of January, recent CSO figures show.

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said the employment gains came despite a challenging year due to Brexit uncertainty and a slowdown in international markets.

“Total employment in 2019 rose by 65,000, a 2.9% increase on 2018, a growth rate seen for three straight years. The level of employment grew by 1,250 per week last year,” the Minister noted.

He also said that the number of people at work reached another all-time high, with 2,350,600 people in employment in the fourth quarter last year.

“Ireland has faced and continues to face a highly uncertain macroeconomic situation with clear risks to our future economic growth, not least due to ongoing uncertainty associated with the future trading relationship with the UK,” Mr Donohoe said.

“However we will face these challenges from a position of strength,” he added.

Meanwhile, economists at the NERI point to a need to take a closer look at the data to discern other, less welcome trends.

Thirty-eight percent of employment growth over the year was part-time employment (30,400), compared to a national part-time rate of just 20.9%. Related is the number of underemployed in the Irish economy, barely changed over the year of strong employment growth (108,500 to 108,400) in quarter 4 2019. This is a particularly precarious form of employment, associated with high levels of in-work poverty and financial insecurity.

Growth in the number of self-employed with no employees also took up a disproportionate share (10.3%) of employment growth compared to a share of 4.1% of overall employment.

NERI economist Paul Goldrick-Kelly points to the absence of international comparisons of relative labour market performance. “Falling unemployment should be welcomed but that rate doesn’t represent the be all and end all of labour market performance. We rarely hear about our relatively low levels of aggregate employment – in terms of the percentage of the working population employed, we are distinctly average by European standards.”

More than 350,000 public service workers

Separately, CSO figures show that 351,300 people are employed in the public service – up from 333,300 at the end of 2016.

137,100 work in health – the largest sector – with 112,000 employed in education.

There are 43,500 in the civil service, 35,100 in regional bodies, 14,500 in An Garda Síochána, and 9,000 in the Defence Forces.

When semi-state bodies are included, the State workforce rises to 407,800.

In the private sector, 1,506,100 are employed, up from 1,348,200 at the end of 2016.

The data was released in conjunction with the latest Labour Force Survey statistics.

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