The proportion of people in employment and at risk of poverty decreased from 5.69 per cent in 2014 to 4.4 per cent in 2019. While not comparable due to a change in time series, in 2020 this rate was 6.2 per cent, decreasing to 4.4 per cent in 2021, based on EU-SILC data.
Mean weekly earnings have increased increased from €717.52 in Q4 2016 to €863.70 in Q4 2021. However, average figures conceal inequality. For example, in Q2 2022, average weekly earnings were €871.62, with a range from €404.80 in the Accommodation and Food sector (19.5 per cent below the Living Wage of €503.10 for a 39-hour week) to €1,442.80 in the Information and Communication sector.
The period from 1993 was one of decline in unemployment. By late-2000 Irish unemployment reached its lowest level at 3.8 per cent of the labour force. Subsequently the international recession and domestic economic crisis brought about increases in the rate. By 2006 unemployment had exceeded 100,000 on an annualised basis for the first time since 1999 with an average of 106,325 people recorded as unemployed in mid-2006. As Chart 1 shows, it exceeded 200,000 in early-2009, 300,000 in late-2009 and peaked at 356,000 in the third quarter of 2011. The Covid-19 lockdowns caused further job losses with the numbers rapidly peaking and then declining again in 2020/21. Since then, the rate of long-term unemployment decreased from 3.2 per cent in Q2 2017 to 1.1 per cent in Q2 2022.
Chart 1: Rates of Unemployment and Long-Term Unemployment in Ireland, 1991-2021