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News : Irish Last Updated: Mar 25, 2010 - 7:01:06 AM

Irish full-time employment fell by 193,200 in 2009; Unemployment rate rose to 13.1%
By Finfacts Team
Mar 24, 2010 - 11:15:46 AM

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Source: CSO

Irish full-time employment fell by 193,200 on an annual basis in 2009 with declines in both male (-152,500) and female (-40,800). The unemployment rate rose to 13.1% according to the Central Statistics Office today

The largest decreases in full-time employment occurred in the Construction (-84,700),  Industry (-33,000) and Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (-28,500) sectors. Each of these sectors showed a small increase in part-time employment: Construction (+5,100), Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (+3,800) and Industry (+3,200).

There was an increase of 26,400 in the numbers employed part-time, with male part-time employment increasing 25,300 over the year while female part-time employment was almost static, increasing by 1,000 over the same period. There were 1,887,700 persons in Irish employment (full and part-time) in the fourth quarter of 2009, an annual decrease of 166,900 or 8.1%. This compares with an annual decrease in employment of 8.8% in the previous quarter and a decline of 3.9% in the year to the fourth quarter of 2008. There was an annual decrease of 127,200 or 11.1% in the number of men in employment, while the number of women in employment decreased by 39,600 or 4.3%.

According to the Quarterly National Household Survey Quarter 4 2009,  employment fell on an annual basis in 9 of the 14 economic sectors. The largest decline in employment was recorded in the Construction sector where the numbers employed fell by 79,600 (-36.8%) over the year. The next largest annual decrease in employment was recorded in the Industry sector where the numbers employed fell by 29,800 (-10.8%).

There were 267,400 persons unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2009, an increase of 97,700 (+57.6%) in the year. Male unemployment increased by 72,000 (+61.5%), with the number of unemployed females increasing by 25,800 (+49.0%). When seasonal factors are taken into account there was a quarterly increase of 10,100 in the numbers unemployed with the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increasing from 12.5% to 13.1% over the quarter.

Non-Irish national labour force declines by 10%

The CSO says there were an estimated 422,900 non-Irish nationals aged 15 years and over in the State in the fourth quarter of 2009, a decrease of 41,500 or 8.9% over the year. This compares with a decrease of 20,900 or 4.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008. The number of non-Irish nationals aged 15 and over in the State has been declining since Q4 2007 when the number peaked at 485,300.

In the fourth quarter of 2009 the estimated number of non-Irish nationals in the labour force was 303,100, a decrease of 33,600 or 10.0% in the year. A decrease of 29,800 had been recorded in the year to Q4 2008, the first quarter in which an annual decline in the non-Irish labour force has been recorded. The number of Irish nationals in the labour force decreased by 35,500 or 1.9% in the year.

According to ILO (International Labour Organisation) criteria, 255,200 non-Irish nationals were in employment in Q4 2009 representing a decrease of 50,100 (-16.4%) over the year. A further 47,900 were unemployed, an increase of 16,500 in the year to Q4 2009.

Nationals of the EU15 to EU27 States showed a decline in employment of 30,400 (-21.1%) and an increase in unemployment of 10,700 over the year.

In the fourth quarter of 2009 non-Irish nationals accounted for 13.5% of all persons aged 15 and over in employment. This compares with 14.9% in Q4 2008 and 16.2% in Q4 2007. More than a third (33.6%) of workers in Accommodation and food service activities, 22.2% in Administrative and support service activities and 18.8% in Information and communication were non-Irish nationals. The largest decreases in employment for non-Irish nationals occurred in the Construction (-17,500), Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (-8,600) and Industry (-6,400) sectors.

Main Results Q4 2009
Change in Quarter
Change in Year
Labour Force

Employment fell on an annual basis in 9 of the 14 economic sectors. The largest decline in employment was recorded in the Construction sector where the numbers employed fell by 79,600 (-36.8%) over the year. The next largest annual decrease in employment was recorded in the Industry sector where the numbers employed fell by 29,800 (-10.8%).

NCB economist Brian Devine says unemployment rate significantly underestimated by Live Register

Overall, the Q4 2009 employment data do little to change the view that there will be no net job creation until 2011. We expect the peak to trough decline in employment to be 14% with 11.9% of that adjustment having taken place. The seasonally adjusted data were quite different to the underlying data this quarter with some conflicting conclusions. Nonetheless, it is the seasonally adjusted data which we focus on as this gives the best idea of the underlying trend.

In February, the Live Register actually fell, causing the seasonally adjusted standardised unemployment rate to fall from 12.7% to 12.6%.The lagging but benchmark employment statistics for Q4 2009 were released today. These statistics showed that the Live Register unemployment rate was substantially understated in November 2009.The Live Register measure indicated that the unemployment rate in November was 12.4% compared with 13.1% according to the official seasonally adjusted unemployment measure. Consequently, the March reading of the Live Register unemployment measure is likely to be closer to 13.3%.

Large differences in employment between sectors

Employment declines across the economy remained significant but decelerated from -1.9% q/q in Q3 to -1.2% q/q in Q4. The retail and construction sectors continue to shed jobs at a rapid pace. Rather surprisingly the Hotel & restaurant industry added significant jobs in Q4,while the Health sector also continued to add jobs (Table 1).With numbers continuing to be cut it is not surprising that the number of person’s unemployed greater than a year continues to rise. The figure now stands at 89,100 up from 29,400 in Q4 2007.

Non participation rising

The labour force participation rate continues to decline, falling to 61.5%from a peak of 64.1%, as the number of discouraged workers (not counted as employed or unemployed) continues to increase. Surprisingly increased education participation has not materially affected the decline in the labour force. A wider measure of potential labour supply is the S3 measure which includes persons out of the labour force who show some interest in obtaining work as well as the unemployed. This measure increased from 10.8% in Q4 2008 to 16.5% in Q4 2009.

Irish national’s emigrating?

The number of non-Irish nationals over the age of 15 declined by 9,900between Q3 and Q4’09. This is less than the 12,200 decline in Q3 2009and the 13,200 decline in Q4 2008.Irish nationals over the age of 15 increased by 4,700 in the same period this is far less than the 14,400 increase in Q3 2009 and the 17,300increase in Q4 2009. This could be the first signs of emigration by Irish nationals in the statistics as one would expect this figure to be positive given the natural increase in those over 15.

The official population statistics are only provided once a year in April but one possible take away from the above data is that emigration by non-Irish nationals is now slowing as they were quicker to leave the country when things turned bad, whereas Irish nationals may have tried to stick around longer, but a lack of job opportunities is starting to force peoples hands.

Davy chief economist Rossa White says labour market beginning to stabilise at end of 2009

Employment fell at slowest pace in 18 months in Q4

  • There were 1,883,800 people employed in Ireland in Q4 2009, 22,900 fewer than in Q3. But the 1.2% quarter-on-quarter (qoq) decline was the smallest for 18 months.
  • There was good news among the sectors as industrial employment actually rose by 700 people qoq. This signals that improving global conditions are helping: manufacturing export orders have returned to growth in the last number of months. Other sectors to see employment growth include hospitality and tourism and professional/scientific/technical activities, both of which are influenced by global economic recovery.

Unemployment rate above 13%: 281,700 unemployed

  • The unemployment rate rose from 12.5% in Q3 to 13.1% in Q4. This meant that 281,700 people were officially unemployed, i.e. available and fit for work but unable to find a job. Recent trends in the Live Register since this survey was carried out suggest that the labour market is stabilising. We think the unemployment rate will peak at around 13.5% this summer. 
  • Younger age groups have seen shocking rises in unemployment, especially for males. That makes sense as most of the damage was done in the construction sector. The unemployment rate for 20-24 year-old males is 32.3%; for 25-34 year-olds, it has reached 18.1%. Female unemployment rates in those age groups are about half of those for males as female employment is skewed more towards public services.

Total labour input down 10% as hours worked fall

  • Hours worked across the economy are down 2% in the last year from 35.9 to 35.2 per week. Added to the 8% decline in employment, this means that total labour input decreased by 10% during 2009.

IBEC, the business group says the new CSO labour market data highlight the scale of the challenge facing the new Cabinet

Commenting on the CSO's Quarterly National Household Survey, IBEC senior economist Fergal O'Brien said: "The significant increase in long-term unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing the Government. The new cabinet must put jobs and economic renewal at the very top of its agenda. It is vital that every government department plays its part in getting people back to work and restoring our economic fortunes.

"The continued rise in the long-term unemployment rate and the fall in those classified as short-term unemployed suggests an emerging structural unemployment problem. Those previously employed in construction or traditional manufacturing are struggling to obtain new jobs in other sectors of the economy.

"The unemployment rate increased to 13.1% in the final quarter of the year, which is higher than indicated by the Live Register for the same period. Almost 170,000 jobs were lost in the last year: 70,000 of these in the first quarter of 2009, with the pace slowing considerably since then. "Construction remains the sector under the most pressure, with no sign of a bottoming out yet. Construction employment numbers fell by 80,000 in the year and 15,000 of these were lost in the final quarter of 2009. Over 10% of total job losses were in manufacturing. Somewhat surprisingly, the hospitality sector held up well during 2009, while the information and communication and health sectors also saw a modest increase in employment levels."

Goodbody chief economist Dermot O'Leary comments that This morning's employment data suggest that caution on the Irish consumer is appropriate

Unemployment rate higher than expected...- Trends in the monthly Live Register series over recent months suggested the labour market situation in Ireland was stabilising. The more comprehensive Quarterly National Household Survey for Q4 reveals that the progress that was made was pretty minor. In contrast to the Live Register estimate of the unemployment rate of 12.4%, the unemployment rate actually reached 13.1% in the final quarter of 2009, the highest level since 1994.

 ...while employment trends remain weak...- The rate of decline in employment was not as severe in Q4 2009, but job losses are still continuing at a rapid rate. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, employment declined by 1.2% in Q4, which was actually the slowest rate of job loss in six quarters. On an annual basis this equates to a fall of 8.1% (-8.8% yoy in Q3), while the decline in employment from the peak has reached 12% (equivalent to c.250,000 jobs).

 ...particularly for full-time jobs - The slight improvement in annual growth in Q4 can be mainly attributed to a 6.7% yoy increase in part-time employment. Sectors such as construction, industry, and retail, which have experienced the most rapid falls in employment overall are contributing to this trend, as employees search for any work that they can get. Full-time employment actually fell by 11.6% in Q4, similar to the -11.8% yoy decline in Q3.

Caution on the consumer remains - Although the employment data relate to Q4, they do tell us a number of things about the state of the Irish labour market. In particular, the stabilisation seen in the Live Register data seems to be overdone, with the unemployment rate actually increasing significantly in the final quarter of the year, and the decline in the labour force, as participation declines, flattering the unemployment rate stabilisation even more. In this environment, we continue to believe that caution should be excercised with regards an improvement in domestic demand in general and consumer spending in particular.

KBC chief economist Austin Hughes comments that employment data for the final quarter of 2009 confirm the weakness of the Irish jobs market.  They also hint that the pace of job loss may be easing.  The quarterly decline in numbers at work was the smallest in a year and a half.  The likelihood is that employment will continue to shrink through the first half of 2010 but today’s numbers suggest some possibility that job market conditions could stabilise in the second half of this year.

Even allowing for a sharper decline in economic activity than elsewhere, the drop in employment in Ireland in the past two years has been markedly greater than in other countries.  Numbers at work in the Irish economy have fallen by 11.9% whereas the comparable figures for the Eurozone and US are 2.6% and 6.1% respectively.  It remains probable that the cumulative drop in employment during the downturn will be close to 300K.  Today’s data show there was a fall of some 254K between late 2007 and the end of 2009.  The likelihood is that the bulk of the remaining 50K decline will occur by the middle of 2010. 

The drop in Irish employment has been concentrated in three main areas; construction, manufacturing and wholesale/retail.  Since employment in construction peaked in the summer of 2007 some 142K jobs or more than half the total at work in the building industry have been lost.  In turn, construction has accounted for just over half of the drop in employment across the Irish economy as a whole.  Jobs in industry have been declining through most of the past decade but some 57K jobs have been shed since early 2007 representing a little under 20% of its workforce.  Jobs in the wholesale and retail trade have been hit hard by a sharp pullback in consumer spending.  As a result, 48K jobs or some 15% of that sector’s workforce have been lost.

Together, these three areas account for all but 7K of the 254K jobs lost in the Irish economy in the downturn.  That is not to say that there have not been significant job cuts in other areas.  However, it appears that there was also some measure of job creation that meant net job losses in other areas were comparatively modest.  Indeed, today’s data show that numbers at work in five sectors, transportation, and storage, accommodation and food services, information and communication and health and related activities were higher at the end of 2009 than at the end of 2008.  Similarly only 6 out of 14 sectors recorded significant seasonally adjusted declines in employment between the third and fourth quarters of 2009.

Seasonally adjusted data show some easing in the pace of job loss even in hard hit sectors such as construction, industry and wholesale/retail in the second half of 2009.  This might suggest that in contrast to other countries where efforts were made to preserve employment, job cuts in Ireland seem to have been front loaded.  Presumably, the scale of deterioration in Irish economic conditions meant companies felt there was little to be gained by ‘hoarding’ labour.  Diagram 1, above, shows quarterly changes in employment and unemployment from today’s household survey data as well as quarterly changes in the live register. 

This diagram suggests that through the middle years of the past decade, jobs growth approaching 25K or greater was sufficient to keep unemployment flat in spite of sharp increases in new entrants to Ireland’s labour force.  In 2008, however, job cutting intensified and led to an acceleration in numbers unemployed.  This peaked in the first quarter of 2009 and has begun to moderate more recently.  The diagram also suggests that the recent easing in unemployment increases has been more pronounced than the easing in the pace of job losses.  This reflects a decline in the labour force reflecting significant changes in participation in education and in migration.

Dramatic changes in Irish economic conditions have prompted even more dramatic changes in participation in the labour force.  In 1998, the participation rate was 57%.  By end 2007 this had climbed to 64.1%.  This largely reflected a 10 percentage point jump in female participation which in turn owed something to individualisation as well as the increased demand for labour.  Male participation jumped to 73% from 70% a trend that has since reversed with a particularly sharp recent drop in labour force participation among 15-24 year olds which may reflect in part increased uptake of educational places.  As the deterioration in employment has been particularly severe in male dominated areas such as construction and industry the recent drop in female participation has been altogether more modest.  So, the overall participation rate has fallen to 61.2.

A possibly more notable aspect of the seachange in Irish labour market conditions is a sharp turnaround in migration flows.  The Irish jobs market has become very tough for all but particularly difficult for non-Irish nationals of late.  While overall numbers at work fell by 8.1% between the final quarters of 2008 and 2009, the decline for Irish nationals was 6.7% while for non-Irish nationals it was 16.4%.  In part, this reflects a concentration of non-Irish national employees in hard-hit areas such as construction but even in those areas the drop in non-national employment has been markedly greater than that of Irish nationals.  This gap presumably reflects shorter or more flexible employment contracts as well as a tendency towards ‘last in first out’ in job shedding decisions.  So, today’s data confirm that migration offers a key balancing mechanism for the Irish jobs market.  Perhaps surprisingly, today’s data provide little support for widespread anecdotal reports of a dramatic increase in emigration among Irish nationals.  Between the final quarters of 2008 and 2009, the estimated number of people of 15 and over living in Ireland fell by 13K or 0.4%.  This comprised a 42K or 8.9% drop in non-Irish nationals and a 29K or 0.9% increase in Irish nationals.

Today’s data also reveal a slightly higher seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the final quarter of 2009.  The increase from 12.5% in the Autumn to 13.1% in the last three months looks unusually large and may reflect reduced availability of part time work.  It seems likely the unemployment rate will stabilise through the first half of 2010 has been suggested by trends in the live register.  It now seems likely that the unemployment rate will peak somewhat below 14% and average around 13.5% in 2010 before declining to around 12-12.5% in 2011.  Unfortunately, any improvement in the economy is likely to be modest and areas such as construction and consumer spending may not see much upturn for some significant time while public sector and financial services employment are set to shrink.  This means that Irish job market conditions may improve only

Bank of Ireland chief economist Dan McLaughlin comments that Irish Employment falls again in Q4; Pace of job losses slows

Irish employment falls further in final quarter…Irish employment peaked at2.15m in the third quarter of 2007 and has declined consistently since then, falling to 1.89m in the fourth quarter of 2009, as recorded in the latest Quarterly National Household Survey. The latter figure represents an 8.1% annual fall, from8.8% in Q3, and the seasonally adjusted data also shows a slowdown in the pace of job losses in Q4; employment fell by 23,000 in the quarter, following a39,000 fall in Q3 and a 73,000 plunge in the first quarter of 2009.

…although employment grew in some industries…Construction again provided the largest quarterly job losses, with a 15,000 fall bringing the seasonally adjusted total in that industry to 133,000, compared with a cycle high of 285,000. Consequently, the construction sector has accounted for 56% of the total fall in Irish employment in the recession. The manufacturing sector has also shed 48,000 jobs over the same period but employment in that sector actually rose marginally in Q4 on a seasonally adjusted basis, with other gains in hotels and restaurants, professional and scientific activities and public administration. Other sectors continued to shed labour, including the wholesale and retail trade( down 3,000 in the quarter) the financial sector (-2,000) and education (-3,000).

…the labour force showed a 3.1% annual fall…The labour force also peaked in the third quarter of 2007, at 2.25m, and had fallen to 2.15m by the fourth quarter of 2009. The annual fall in Q4 was 69,000 or 3.1%, from 2.9% in Q3, and was largely driven by a fall in the participation rate to 61.2% from 62.9% a year earlier and a cycle high of 64.8%. The participation rate is falling across all age groups but is most pronounced in the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups, with a greater proportion of this cohort possibly staying on longer in school or attending third-level educational institutions.

…the total unemployed was 268,000…The unadjusted total unemployed was 268,000 in the final quarter, a rise of 99,000 on the year and an increase of 178,000 from the cycle low. Non-Irish nationals have borne a disproportionate share of the job losses, with a16.5% annual fall in the total of non-Irish nationals in employment, against a 6.7% fall in Irish nationals. Moreover, the share of job losses borne by migrants from the accession states has been higher still, with a 21% fall in employment for nationals from that area. The data also implies a sizeable migrant outflow, as only 17,000 of the 50,000 non-Irish nationals who lost their jobs in the past year were recorded as unemployed.

…and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was a surprise…The monthly Live Register, which is a claimant count and does not measure unemployment, is used to estimate the monthly seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, which averaged 12.4% in the final quarter of 2009. The actual figure, as derived from the Household Survey, is now put at 13.1%, which implies the previously published monthly unemployed rate estimates will now be revised higher. The unadjusted unemployment rate in Q4 was 12.4%, so the seasonal adjustment factor is unusually wide. Moreover, the CSO itself has noted an unusually large fall in agricultural employment, amounting to an annual 27,000 or an extraordinary 23% fall, which may be due to an error. As such the seasonally adjusted Q4 fall in agriculture of 5,000 may be revised, which would be significant as it accounted for 21% of the total fall in employment in the quarter.

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