The rate of unemployment measures the percentage of people who are not in work, but who are available for and actively seeking work.

It is generally accepted that zero unemployment is unlikely, even when an economy is operating at full capacity. This is due to various factors such as availability of job information, skills and education and the degree of labour mobility. For this reason, a full rate of employment is generally considered to exist when unemployment is around 4% in an economy.

The live register is a publication containing a count of all those under 65 who are in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance. The Department of Social Protection accumulates monthly returns from each social welfare office which is then passed on to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The live register is not an accurate measure of unemployment because it includes people who are:

  • legally working part-time and signing on part-time (e.g. those working in seasonal industries)
  • casual employment and
  • those in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit

Short-term Trends


Unemployment Rate %
CSO – Live Register

Long Term Trends

The Irish economy has gone through significant structural change since 2008. This is particularly reflected in the employment numbers in the economy. The number of persons in employment decreased from the peak of 2,160,000 in Q1 2008 to 1,832,700 in Q3 2012. As of the 4th quarter of 2016, employment numbers stood at 2.05 million. Latest available comparable data show that, as of January 2017 the unemployment rate stood at 6.7% in Ireland compared to an EU 28 average of 8.1%.


Source: Statistical Yearbook of Ireland 2016