Ireland Unemployment Hits 4 Year High

Ireland Unemployment Hits 4-Year High

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK 07.06.07, 7:53 AM ET
Associated Press

Unemployment in Ireland has risen to 4.6 percent, its highest rate in nearly four years, the government's Central Statistics Office reported Friday.

The jump from May's rate of 4.5 percent represented its highest level since September 2003 in Ireland, which has enjoyed strong economic growth for the past 13 years.

Ireland's jobs market has dramatically expanded in recent years on the back of a construction boom and heavy immigration, particularly from Eastern Europe. More than 200,000 foreigners are part of today's 2.1 million-strong work force.

The report said the number of people claiming unemployment benefits – including seasonal and part-time workers – rose last month to 166,363, which is 3,300 more than the number of people who claimed unemployment in June 2006.

Ireland had suffered double-digit unemployment and chronic emigration until the mid-1990s, when waves of corporate investment attracted by low wages and taxes began to hit Ireland. Today more than 1,000 foreign corporations, about half from the United States, have made Ireland their base in the European Union.

Foreign companies cite Ireland's 12.5 percent business tax, English language and position within the euro currency zone as reasons to stay. But some also say the country's patchy road network, poor broadband services, expensive energy and, above all, wage pressures are taking a toll.

Salary levels have risen strongly with Ireland's EU-leading cost of living. Ireland has one of Europe's highest minimum wages, 8.65 euros ($11.75) an hour.

“These figures show that we can no longer rely on an endless stream of projects from multinational computer companies to meet our job needs,” said Ciaran Lynch, finance spokesman for the opposition Labour Party.