Dublin: Ireland’s unemployment rate was revised down sharply on Tuesday, the statistics agency said, taking the level below 5 per cent for the first time in over a decade as jobs were added at the fastest pace since the recovery began.
Monthly unemployment rates have been subject to sharp revisions in recent quarters and in Tuesday’s change April’s rate was cut to 4.6 per cent from the 5.4 per cent previously estimated, with revisions running all the way back to November.
The unemployment rate last touched that level in late 2006 before an economic crash brought the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom years to a brutal end, pushed Ireland into an international bailout and swelled the jobless rate to a 2012 peak of 16 per cent.
While consumer sentiment and business surveys indicated some nervousness over neighbouring Britain’s protracted exit from the European Union, the jobs data “ripped up any notion of a Brexit-related slowdown in the Irish economy”, Conall MacCoille, chief economist at Davy Stockbrokers, wrote in a note.
“Most projections for Irish GDP in 2019 had built in a slowdown in jobs growth to 2-2.5 per cent. These assumptions now look too pessimistic,” MacCoille said after Ireland trimmed its official forecasts last month, partly citing a moderation in jobs growth.
Consistently strong employment growth since 2012 had shown some signs of slowing last year but Tuesday’s revisions were due to a big rise in employment, which is measured comprehensively on a quarterly basis.
The number of people in work jumped by 3.7 per cent or 81,200 year-on-year in the three months to March, the most jobs added in any quarter since the recovery began and up from a 2.3 per cent increase in the previous quarter.
Almost eight out of every 10 jobs added in the quarter were full-time roles, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said.
The figures also confirmed that the EU’s fastest growing economy was “zeroing in” on full employment, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said, referring to the point where just about everyone who wants a job has one, putting upward pressure on wages.
“Full employment is a welcome outcome, but it also presents challenges for policy,” Donohoe said in a statement.
“We must avoid policies that overheat the economy. This means ensuring that the labour market remains open and flexible in order to support growth in jobs and living standards, while protecting our international competitiveness.”