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Irish unemployment reaches 13.7 pct, 16-year high

By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press Writer / August 5, 2010

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DUBLIN—Ireland's unemployment rate has reached a 16-year high of 13.7 percent as idle university students and laid-off professionals joined the welfare lines, the Central Statistics Office reported Thursday.

Economists said July's rise from the previous monthly rate of 13.4 percent was sharper than expected. The government said it reflected, in part, a surge of welfare claims from university students who have failed to find summer jobs.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits now stands at a record high of 466,824 -- 8 percent more than a year ago -- in this nation of 4.4 million. Nearly 17 percent of those claiming state benefits do have casual or part-time work.

"We want to improve our economy to get as many of those people as possible back to a five-day week," said Eamon O Cuiv, the government's minister for social protection. He forecast that the surge in welfare claimants "will be reversed in the autumn" once students return to campus.

The Central Statistics Office reported that those claiming unemployment benefits increasingly were laid-off professionals rather than lower-paid craft, service and secretarial staff. It said the number of professionals claiming welfare rose 12.3 percent in July alone, larger than any other occupational group.

The only group that has bucked the job-shedding trend has been managers and administrators. Their numbers on the welfare lines have declined 1.8 percent since January.

The report said most of the new claimants this year are Irish people rather than immigrants, many of whom have left Ireland since the economy turned sour in 2008.

It said the number of Irish people on the welfare lines have risen 10 percent this year to 387,612, while non-Irish claimants have fallen 1.1 percent to 79,212. More than half of the remaining foreign claimants are Eastern Europeans who poured into then-booming Ireland following the eastward expansion of the European Union in 2004.

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Online:

Unemployment report, http://bit.ly/RdVnD

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