By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Unemployment has dipped below the 100,000 figure for the first time in 20 years, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The national household survey figures reveal that the number of jobless in the first quarter of the year was 95,100, or 5.8 percent.
As the Celtic Tiger boom continues, more than 72,000 people got jobs last year with the biggest increases being in the financial and business services sectors, where 17,000 extra jobs were created.
The building industry employed an extra 15,000 and 12,000 got jobs in communications and transport.
Welcoming the figures, government Chief Whip Seamus Brennan said he was particularly encouraged by the fact that many of the new jobs were in the private sector.
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Meanwhile, Irish technology companies are forging ahead of their European competitors, according to a new survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which has found that exports were almost three times the average.
As the number one exporter in Europe, high-tech companies sell 52 percent of their products and services abroad, compared to the European average of 19 percent.
Ireland also has a competitive advantage with the highest spend on research and development — 10.5 percent over the last four years.
This has meant a product development time of 1.1 years compared to the European average of 1.9 years.
Ireland also had the greatest salary increases with 45 percent of companies giving raises above 10 percent to a staff that is an average 10 years younger than other European countries.
However, management staff in technology companies were among the lowest paid with £36,000 compared to an equivalent European average of £50,500 and £70,5000 in Switzerland.