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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Jun 2, 2011 - 8:56 AM

Irish Live Register: Unemployment rate rises to 14.8% in May; 40% signing-on more than year; Misery Index highest since 1992
By Finfacts Team
Jun 1, 2011 - 1:40 PM

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Source: Davy

Irish Live Register: The Central Statistics Office (CSO) reported today that the unemployment rate rose to 14.8% in May while 40% of claimants on the register have been signing-on more than one year. Meanwhile, the Misery Index, combining both unemployment and inflation, has now risen to its highest level since September 1992.

The standardised unemployment rate in May 2011 was 14.8%, up slightly from a rate of 14.7% in April. The monthly increase in the standardised unemployment rate was caused by an increase of 2,600 (+0.6%) in the seasonally adjusted number of persons signing on the Live Register. The latest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from the Quarterly National Household Survey was 14.7% in the fourth quarter of 2010. The average unemployment rate during 2010 was 13.6%.

In May 2011 there were 440,947 people signing on the Live Register representing an increase of 3,025 (+0.7%) over the year. This increase is less than that recorded in April 2011(+6,914 or +1.6%) and far less than the increase of 43,788 (+11.1%) seen in the year to May 2010. In the year to May 2009 the increase had been as high as 192,378 (+95.4%).

January of 2009 represented the spike in claimant increases in any month, with a record 33,000, or 11.3%, rise - - 26,700 additions in February, 20,000 in March; 15,800 in April; 13,500 in May; 11,400 in June; 10,500 in July; 5,400 in August and 600 in September. The total fell 3,000 in October; rose 900 in November and another 3,300 were added in December, to bring the end 2009 total to 426,700.

In December 2010, the number of persons on the Live Register stood at 437,079 which represented an annual increase of 13,484 (+3.2%). The number of non-Irish nationals fell by 874 in 2010 to 76,645.

Other features include:

  • On a seasonally adjusted basis there were monthly increases of 2,200 males and 400 females on the Live Register.

  • The number of female claimants increased by 5,120 (+3.5%), to 152,657 over the year while the number of male claimants decreased by 2,095 (-0.7%) to 288,290. This compares with increases of 18,876 (+14.7%) and 24,912 (+9.4%) for females and males respectively in the year to May 2010.

  • The number of casual and part-time workers on the Live Register increased over the year by 6,058 (+7.7%) to 84,933. Casual and part-time workers in May accounted for 19.3% of those on the Live Register, an increase from 12.1% three years earlier.

The CSO says the Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time workers (those who work up to three days a week), seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Allowance. Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey and the latest estimated number of persons unemployed as of the fourth quarter of 2010 was 299,000.

Live Register schemes analysis

In May there were 112,107 Jobseekers Benefit (JB) claimants on the Live Register, an annual decrease of 32,878 (-22.7%), while Jobseekers Allowance (JA) claimants increased over the same period by 29,992 (+11.1%) to a level of 299,633. As a result JA claimants now account for 68.0% of all persons on the Live Register compared with 61.6% a year earlier.

In the year to May 2011 the number of persons aged 25 and over on the Live Register increased by 7,677 (+2.2%), while the number of persons aged under 25 fell by 4,652 (-5.4%). In both age groups JB claims fell while JA claims increased.

Among persons aged under 25 the decrease in JB claimants (-4,810) was far larger than the increase in JA claimants (+197), but for persons aged 25 and over the increase in JA claimants (+29,795) over the year more than offset the decrease in JB claimants (-28,068).

There was an increase of 5,911 (+25.4%) in ‘Other Registrants’ on the Live Register in the year to May 2011 bringing the total to 29,207. This increase was entirely recorded among persons aged 25 and over (+5,950 or +26.0%).

There were 35,515 new registrants on the Live Register in May 2011, consisting of 15,582 JB claims, 18,497 JA claims and 1,436 ‘Other Registrants’. Males accounted for 20,260 (57.0%) and females 15,255 (43.0%) of all new registrants.

The CSO said that on average 5,065 male and 3,814 female new registrants joined the Live Register each week of the month. The difference between the number of new registrants on the Live Register and the increase in the total number on the Live Register is accounted for by closed claims and movements between schemes.

Live Register regional analysis

Annual increases in the Live Register were recorded in six of the eight NUTS 3 regions, with decreases in the Mid-West (-1.0%) and South-West regions (-0.7%). The largest percentage increase was in the Midland region (+2.9%), followed by the South-East and Mid-East regions at 1.7% and 1.5% respectively.

Live Register occupational groups

Craft and related (25.4%) was the largest occupational group on the Live Register in May, followed by Plant and machine operatives (16.0%). While it remains the largest occupational group on the Live Register the number in the Craft and related group actually fell over the year by 6,100 (-5.2%) to 112,062.

In the year to May 2011 four occupational groups showed Live Register increases. The largest percentage increases were in the Other occupation group (+7.0%), followed by the Personal and protective service (+6.5%) and Sales (+5.4%) groups.

Source: Davy

Live Register duration of continuous registration

In May 60.0% (264,613) of all claimants on the Live Register were short term claimants. The comparable figure for May 2010 was 71.2% (311,857). The annual fall of 47,244 (-15.1%) in the number of short term claimants consisted of a decrease of 38,528 in the number of male short term claimants and a decrease of 8,716 in female short term claimants.

In the year to May 2011 the number of long term male claimants increased by 36,433 (+39.3%), while the comparable increase for females was 13,836 (+41.4%) giving an overall annual increase of 50,269 (+39.9%) in the number of long term claimants.

Live Register casual and part-time workers

There were 84,933 casual and part-time workers on the Live Register in May, which represents 19.3% of the total Live Register. This compares with 18.0% one year earlier when there were 78,875 casual and part-time workers on the Live Register.

In the year to May 2011 the number of casual and part-time workers increased by 6,058 (+7.7%), with the number of males increasing by 3,469 (+8.3%) and the number of females increasing by 2,589 (+6.9%).

Live Register nationality groupings

In May Irish nationals accounted for 82.5% (363,969) of the number of persons on the Live Register. Of the 76,978 non-Irish nationals, the largest constituent group on the Live Register continued to be nationals from the EU15 to EU27 States (41,791), followed by the UK (18,075).

In the year to May 2011 the number of Irish nationals on the Live Register increased by 4,116 (+1.1%), while the number of non-Irish nationals decreased by 1,091 (-1.4%).

Davy economist, Conall Mac Coille commented:

Live Register numbers continue to rise

  • Unemployment claimants continued to increase in May, by 2,600 to 443,400 on a seasonally adjusted basis;

  • This constituted a 0.6% rise on the month;

  • The CSO has revised up its estimate of the unemployment rate to 14.8%.

Live Register has been poor guide to employment growth

  • In Q4, the Live Register numbers provided no indication of the sharp 0.9% fall in employment;

  • Today's Live Register numbers suggest that labour market conditions remain weak;

  • The final Quarterly National Household Survey number for Q2 could provide an even bleaker picture.

Consumers now being hit by harsh combination of higher unemployment and rising inflation

  • The 'misery index', capturing both unemployment and inflation, has now risen to its highest level since September 1992 (Figure 1 at top of page).

  • In the early part of the recession, falling CPI inflation helped to sustain real incomes.;

  • Rising CPI inflation, driven by higher energy prices, is now adding to downward pressure on real incomes at a time when households are clearly worried about employment prospects;

  • So Irish consumers are being buffeted by three headwinds – the government's tax and spending plans, higher inflation and rising unemployment.

Source: Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank economists, Simon Barry and Lynsey Clemenger, commented: 

Estimated jobless rate ticks up to 14.8%, as the number of long-term claimants hits new downturn high… Of some concern given the signs of renewed weakness in most other incoming Irish data, the latest Live Register figures showed a rise in both benefit claimants and the jobless rate in May. In terms of the former, the 2,600 monthly increase was the largest since August of last year. This has had the effect of offsetting some of the more encouraging monthly decreases earlier in the year, taking the total on the Register back to its highest since December at 443,400.

As is well known at this stage, the Live Register measure of the unemployment rate is not the official one. This comes from the Quarterly National Household Survey, the latest of which shows an unemployment rate of 14.7% in Q4 of last year. Having held steady at 14.7% in the first 4 months of the year, the May Live Register estimate showed a nudge up in the jobless rate to 14.8%. This is only just below the (upwardly revised) peak for the current cycle of 14.9% from December last year, suggesting that the stabilisation of the unemployment rate sub 15% still looks tentative. That is, even if the official numbers out at the end of this month show a steady jobless rate in Q1, the latest figures suggest further upward pressure on the rate in Q2.

In addition to the high levels of benefit claimants, a further problematic feature of the Irish jobs market is the make-up of the pool of unemployed workers. An increasingly large proportion of total claimants is being accounted for by those who are long-term unemployed i.e. those who have been continuously registered for benefits for over a year. The total falling into this category has risen sharply over the downturn, as workers who have lost their jobs have found it extremely difficult to regain employment. In May, the numbers who have been on the register for over a year hit a new recession high of over 176,300 following a 6,900 increase on the April level. The number of such individuals has now doubled since October 2009, as the share of long-term claimants in the total has gone from 21.2% at that time to 40% in May of this year. While labour market activation measures targeting the long-term unemployed were a feature of the Government’s recent Jobs Initiative, today’s numbers highlight the extent of the problem in this area.

Overall, today’s Live Register numbers paint a picture of what is still an extremely weak Irish labour market. The estimates contained in today’s report suggest a higher peak jobless rate of 14.9% at the end of last year. While there has been a slight decline since then, a trend improvement is proving elusive, a point highlighted by the uptick in the estimated unemployment rate in May to 14.8% from 14.7% in the first four months of the year. The modest deterioration last month is consistent with this morning’s manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) for May where the employment index slipped back to below 50 indicating a decline in staffing levels, following signs in prior months that manufacturers were beginning to expand their employment levels. The combination of these two signals highlights that labour market dynamics continue to represent an important downside risk in the Irish economic outlook at present – one that bears close watching in terms of its potential implications for overall economic growth as well as for the Exchequer revenue position.

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