Page last updated at 11:50 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 12:50 UK

Irish unemployment at fresh highs

Demonstrators hold banners as they join a mass protest in Dublin, against the government's approach to the economic crisis
People have protested over how the economic crisis is being handled

The rate of unemployment in the recession-struck Irish Republic rose to 11% in February, the highest since 1996, official figures have shown.

The rate rose from 10.4% in January and from 7.7% during the October to December quarter of 2008.

Some 370,000 people got a jobseeker allowance in February, 87.5% more than in February last year and a new record.

Next week, the Irish government is due to unveil an emergency budget to try to curb the worst recession in decades.

The recent rise [in unemployment] showed some signs of abating
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen

The economic downturn has led to protests from people over how the economic crisis has been handled.

Last week, data from the Central Statistics Office showed that the economy shrank by 7.5% in the last three months of 2008 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was nevertheless eager to highlight signs of hope.

"The recent rise [in unemployment] showed some signs of abating," he said, pointing to how the unemployment rate has been increasing at a slower pace.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged, a fall in the rate was "unlikely in coming months".



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