Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Questions (75, 76)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

75. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance following budget 2013, the level of unemployment forecast for the end of year 2013. [3247/13]

View answer

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

76. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Finance the level of long-term unemployment forecast for the end of 2013. [3222/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 76 together.

My Department produces and publishes forecasts for the total unemployment rate, and does not disaggregate this between short and long-term unemployed. Furthermore the projections are full year averages rather than end-year forecasts.

In this context, my Department’s latest forecast – published at Budget time – is for an average unemployment rate of 14.6 per cent this year.

I am fully conscious that the long-term unemployed make up a substantial part of those currently unemployed. For instance, figures published this morning show an unemployment rate of 13.7 per cent (unadjusted for seasonal factors) in the fourth quarter of last year; those unemployed for one year or longer account for three-fifths of these.

The Government is fully conscious of the scale of this problem and several initiatives have been introduced to mitigate the challenges faced by those suffering from long-term unemployment and to eliminate barriers preventing re-entry into the workforce. The JobsPlus Initiative , for example, which was introduced as part of the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs, aims to incentivise businesses to hire those who have been on the Live Register for 12 months or more by providing a cash-flow benefit to businesses based on the duration of unemployment.

Finally, I would draw attention to the labour market figures published this morning. These show annual employment growth in the fourth quarter of last year - the first time we have seen such growth since mid-2008. Also, Live Register figures for February show that the standardised unemployment rate now stands at 14.1 per cent, a significant fall from the 15.0 per cent figure seen in the same month in 2012.

In summary, while it is clear that progress is being made in tackling the unacceptably high level of unemployment, I recognise that there is still more to do. As such, job creation continues to be a key priority of the Government.