Irish Economy
Ireland: Official unemployment rate at 9.8% in May; Broad rate at 19% — 440,000 people
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Jun 4, 2015 - 8:24 AM

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Ireland: The Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Wednesday published a new monthly unemployment report separate from the Live Register. The official unemployment rate was 9.8% in May but up to 440,000 people rather than the 209,700 people who are officially unemployed, are in receipt of some form of public unemployment benefit/welfare support.

The Live Register (LR) includes data on residents in receipt of various forms of unemployment benefit plus data on participants in public funded employment activation schemes. However, as the CSO already included an estimate of the monthly unemployment rate based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standard of employment defined paid work from a minimum of 1 hour per weak in the LR report, it missed the opportunity to publish a broad unemployment rate that would likely annoy political leaders but would better inform the public on the total number of people dependent on public jobless benefits.

The US and Germany publish two unemployment rates each month — see here and here for the latest.

Based on the Q1 2015 Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) jobs data published in May, the broad Irish rate was at 19%, while the Irish Live Register + 90,000 activation scheme numbers at 439,000 in April resulted in a 20% broad rate.

The CSO reported yesterday that there was a 300 drop in unemployment in May while the number of males unemployed in May 2015 was 129,600. This represents a decrease of 1,500 when compared to April 2015. In May 2015 the number of females unemployed was 80,000, an increase of 1,100 from April 2015.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for persons aged 15-24 years (youth unemployment rate) was 20.2% in May 2015. This compares to 20.7% in April 2015.

An interesting development is that the age range is now 15-74 years.

In the QNHS data, the labour participation rate has been calculated for 15-64 years old while other categories are for "Persons aged 15 years and over" — so overtime 65 will not be regarded as the standard retirement age.

Conall Mac Coille, chief economist at Davy, commented: "A new statistical methodology has led to minor revisions in the monthly unemployment rate estimates. This means the peak in the Irish unemployment rate is now estimated to have been 15.2% in January 2012. So the unemployment rate has now fallen by 5.4 percentage points from the peak.

Today’s new monthly unemployment rate statistical publication will be followed by the usual Live Register social welfare claimant data on Friday. However, the new monthly unemployment rate estimates for April and May are entirely based on movements in social welfare claimants recorded on the Live Register. So we can expect there to have been some small fall in social welfare claimants too. In April 2015, there were 349,500 on the Live Register – down from 392,800 in April 2014.

In this context, it seems strange that the CSO has decided to release separate unemployment rate and Live Register estimates. Some commentators could be tempted to conclude that the new separate monthly unemployment rate publication is intended to distract attention from the total 350,000 social welfare claimants (an additional 140,000) on the Live Register that are not considered to be unemployed. These claimants are not deemed active labour market participants and are therefore not included in the unemployment estimates."

The CSO is an independent agency but self-censorship in Ireland is common among insiders.

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