Employment up for over 35s, but younger workers still losing jobs and leaving

Posted on November 26, 2013 by Rory O'Farrell

The latest labour market data (released on 26 November 2013) is generally positive in terms of employment, but slightly negative in terms of earnings. However, strange patterns are emerging in terms of what age groups are getting the new jobs.

Overall unemployment is down to 12.6% from 14.3% a year ago. This is driven by genuine job creation rather than emigration. In fact, the size of the labour force has increased (meaning the unemployment would be lower only for people re-entering the labour force). Also most of the jobs being created are full-time jobs, and underemployment has fallen.

The most striking aspect however is how different age groups are affected. Employment for those aged under 35 has actually fallen, by 6,000 (it has increase by 3,200 for those aged 15-24, but fallen by 9,200 for those aged 25-34). In contrast, there were significant job gains for those aged 35 and over. A similar pattern is shown for the labour force. Those aged under 35 continue to leave the labour market (over 32,000), an amount far too high to be explained by the general aging of the population. As the number of students has remained stable, the decrease is most likely to be due to emigration. In contrast the labour force has expanded by almost 50,000 for those aged over 35. Most of the new jobs have gone to men, and the largest occupation to gain is “skilled trades” which may be due to an increase in the employment of skilled agricultural workers.

The largest increase was in the agricultural sector, but this may be a statistical anomaly. It is often more difficult to measure the labour market in the agricultural sector than other sectors.  Increases in employment were seen in the accommodation and food sector and in the “Professional, scientific and technical activities” sector (which includes legal and accounting services). Most of the jobs went to Irish nationals in both these sectors. However, in the information and communication sector most of the jobs went to foreign nationals, which indicates a skills shortage in this sector.

Average hourly earnings are down 1.8% over the year. Due to a slight fall in working hours weekly earnings are down 2.4%. Average hourly earnings fell in the public sector, but also in the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector which is sensitive to bonuses, and the transportation and storage sector. Hourly wages increased in the information and communication sector and the “Professional, scientific and technical” sector. This is reflective of a demand in the private sector for highly educated labour.

The latest Quarterly National Household Survey will be covered in the next edition of the NERI Quarterly Economic Facts.

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