The number of people employed in Ireland increased by 10.1% to just over 2.5 million in the year to the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.
It the first time the number has exceeded 2.5 million since the CSO data series began.
The Labour Force Survey also shows that absences from work fell by 14.7% to 252,100 which resulted in a 9.6% (6.8 million hours) rise in the number of hours worked per week.
The number of hours worked per week were higher than a year ago in almost all sectors and were approaching 2019 levels in most sectors.
The hours worked per week in the Accommodation and Food Services sector, while still below 2019 levels, increased by 1.7 million hours per week over the year.
Today’s figures show there were 127,400 people classified as unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2021 with an associated unemployment rate of 4.9%.
At the end of December 2021, the Covid-19 adjusted measure of unemployment is estimated to have been 195,313 with an associated Covid-19 adjusted unemployment rate of 7.4%
Commenting on the figures, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said Ireland is now “very close” to reaching the target of 2.5 million people at work, which was set out in the Economic Recovery Plan last year.
“Despite the imposition of restrictions on business at the end of last year, 17,500 jobs were still added in the final quarter,” Mr Varadkar said in a statement.
“It’s reassuring to see the Accommodation and Food Service sector recovering somewhat with an increase of 29.8% or 37,100.
“The hours worked per week this sector, while still below Q4 2019 levels, increased by 1.7 million hours per week over the year to Q4 2021. But there is a long way to go,” he added.
Mr Varadkar pointed out that all eight regions in Ireland registered employment growth, with the Mid-West experiencing the biggest increase at 13.4%.
“This is really significant given the Government’s focus on balanced regional development,” he added.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the figures are confirmation that the Government’s policy response to the pandemic has paved the way for a recovery in the labour market.
“Furthermore, a new record high in female participation indicates that a revolution in remote working has made our jobs market more accessible, creating greater opportunity for participation, now and in the future,” Minister Donohoe said in a statement.
“As our economy continues to recover, there are emerging signs that labour shortages and mismatches are becoming a factor in certain sectors.
“As a Government, we will continue to assist those still impacted by the pandemic in returning to employment, and driving a comprehensive and durable recovery,” he said.