By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — As the economic downturn continues to hit industry, the jobless figures rose again in December with the number signing on the Live Register for benefits up by 5,285 in the first three weeks of the month, the Central Statistics Office reported.
However, the unemployment rate is estimated to have remained unchanged from the November figure of 4.1 percent.
There were 152,406 people signing on for benefits on Dec. 21, up 10,820 in a year.
November had seen the biggest monthly increased on record in the country’s unemployment figures.
The November rate of 4.1 percent was the first time unemployment had been above 4 percent since July 2000. Unemployment had reached a historically low level of 3.6 percent in the three months from January to March 2001.
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Social Welfare Minister Dermot Ahern said it was normal for the Live Register figures to increase in December due to seasonal factors.
He said the government is determined to ensure those laid off from jobs would get back to work as quickly as possible.
Due to an administrative glitch caused by the introduction of the euro over the holiday period, the CSO said it could not finalize the December employment statistics, as there was no figure available for the last Friday of the month.
“However, taking into account early indications of the numbers on the Register in early January, it is crudely estimated that there was little change in the seasonally adjusted series, and the standardized unemployment rate between November and December,” the CSO said.
The register is not designed to be a fully accurate measurement of unemployment, because it also includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers signing on for state benefits.
With unemployment increasing, Tanaiste Mary Harney introduced rules earlier this month to tighten up the system of granting work permits to foreigners. The move is “designed to ensure that employers offer first choice of available jobs to Irish or other EEA nationals.”
Last year, the number of work permits issued to foreigners through the end of November was over 36,000.
A record 3,800 permits were granted in November. There are about 5,000 applications in the pipeline with new ones coming in at a rate of 1,100 a week.
A large proportion of the permits involved low-paying and low-skilled jobs on farms, in factories and in the hotel, catering or retail trades.