The seasonally-adjusted Live Register fell 2,300 in the month to 400,700 in January, its lowest total since May 2009. Furthermore, it was the nineteenth monthly decrease in a row. <p>

With the big drop in the numbers signing on, the unemployment rate fell to 12.3% last month from 12.4% in December and 12.5% in November. Having hit a crisis high of 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. But, it has fallen consistently by 0.1 of a percentage point since September and if that trend is maintained over the course of 2014 we will be down to 11.2% come year-end. <p>

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. <p>

It does now appear as though the jobless rate has peaked, and we are now looking for it to fall back to 11.8% on average this year from 13.2% in 2013, which itself was the lowest level since 2009.
<p><h5>Alan McQuaid</h5>


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