The seasonally-adjusted Live Register fell 3,300 in the month to 402,800 in December, its lowest total since May 2009. Furthermore, it was the eighteenth monthly decrease in a row. <p>

With the big drop in the numbers signing on, the unemployment rate fell to 12.4% last month from 12.5% in November, 12.6% in October and 12.7% in September, and its lowest level since June 2009. Having peaked at 15.1% in February 2012, it has since then started to decline steadily, a sign that the labour market is on the road to recovery, though the jobless rate still remains a lot higher than desirable. <p>

<B>The unemployment rate remains the key indicator as far as the economy is concerned and steady progress is being made in terms of bringing it down. Although the recovery path for the labour market won’t entirely be smooth, we do think that the level of unemployment will continue to fall over the course of 2014. It does now appear as though the jobless rate has peaked, and we are looking for it to fall back to 12.2% this year from 13.2% in 2013, which itself was the lowest level since 2009. <p>
<p><h5>Alan McQuaid</h5>



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