Jobless rate in Ireland doubles to 10.4% in year
DUBLIN - Ireland's unemployment rate has more than doubled over the past year to 10.4 percent, a level last seen 12 years ago, the government's Central Statistics Office reported yesterday.
The unexpectedly strong rise has shattered the government's expressed hope of keeping joblessness below 10 percent this year. It reflects an accelerating wave of cutbacks in most employment sectors, starting last year in construction, when a decade-long property boom went bust.
The report on February's jobless figures said the number of people claiming unemployment benefits was growing nearly 1,000 a day to exceed 350,000 - a record that partly reflects the strong growth in Ireland's jobs market during the Celtic Tiger economic boom of 1994-2007.
Analysts and lawmakers warned that Ireland appeared on course to face more than 500,000 people out of work and claiming benefits by Christmas, a burden certain to complicate government efforts to rein in a swelling budget deficit. In parliament, Prime Minister Brian Cowen conceded that breaching the 450,000 level this year was likely.
The government's latest figures on tax receipts and spending, published Tuesday, showed welfare costs rising 8 percent over the past year - driven by laid-off people signing up for benefits - and income tax collections falling 7.4 percent.
Unemployment stood at 9.6 percent in January. It was 5.0 percent in February 2008, and last reached 10.4 percent in March 1997.