Emergency plan is needed to avoid collapse, says ISME, after massive jobless figures

This week’s "dire" Live Register figures show that the Irish economy is on the brink of collapse, according to ISME.

It called for an emergency employment action plan to be introduced without delay saying that over half a million could be on the dole by the end of this year if something is not done.

The latest seasonally adjusted live register figures confirm that 352,800 people are claiming assistance, up 165,000 on the corresponding period last year.

These figures represent a record increase of 88 per cent, the highest since records began. Consequently, the standardised unemployment rate has doubled to 10.4 per cent, up from 4.9 per cent at the start of 2008.

Unemployment as measured by the Live Register rose to 10.4 per cent last month with an unadjusted increase of 87.1 per cent in the year, the latest CSO figures show.

The seasonally adjusted Live Register total increased from 326,100 in January to 352,800 in February, an increase of 26,700.

In response to the figures, ISME chief executive Mark Fielding, said, "With the cost to the State estimated at €20,000 for each individual 'signing on', it is crucial that initiatives are introduced, as part of the supplementary budget, to ensure that employers can maintain employment during these extremely difficult times. Unfortunately we don't seem to have any sustainable plan to guide us out of this current morass".

In the year to February 2009, there was an unadjusted increase of 164,952 (+87.1 per cent ). This compares with an unadjusted increase of 146,412 (+80.7 per cent ) in the year to January 2009.

The monthly increase in the seasonally adjusted series consisted of an increase of 18,200 males and an increase of 8,500 females.

The standardised unemployment rate in February was 10.4 per cent. This compares with 7.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, the latest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from the Quarterly National Household Survey.

In the month, the estimated number of casual and part-time workers on the Live Register was 27,777 males and 25,977 females.

Bloxham Stockbrokers' Alan McQuaid says that as with January, the Live Register figures are 'simply horrendous'. He says they underline the fact that the Irish economy is now in severe crisis mode with the labour market heading for meltdown.

'It is essential in our view that the forthcoming mini-Budget includes some measures to stimulate demand in the economy and project jobs. Focusing on just simply stabilising the public finances and not targeting economic growth will not work, and indeed is likely to do more damage than good', the economist says.

In a note yesterday, Davy predicts that the unemployment rate will pass the 12 per cent level by October. That would mean a near-eight percentage point increase in two years - the rate was only 4.5 per cent in October 2007. The stockbrokers said that the last euro area country to see an equivalent jump was Finland during the period from 1990 to 1992.



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