DUBLIN The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Ireland rose in October, defying expectations for a fall and underlining the challenges facing the government as it tries to cut its deficit without smothering fragile economic growth.
Ireland's unemployment rate has trebled since a property bubble started to unravel in 2007 and has remained at a stubbornly high level of around 14 percent for the past 12 months.
The numbers claiming unemployment benefit rose by 2,700 on a seasonally adjusted basis to 447,100 in October, data on Thursday showed. The median forecast of five economists polled by Reuters was for jobless claims of 443,000 in October, rising to 445,000 by the end of the year.
The standardised unemployment rate was 14.4 percent in October, up from 14.3 percent the month before.
"The live register figures are going to be quite volatile on a monthly basis. I would say that the unemployment situation has been stable at a very, very high rate since last September in the 13.9 to 14.8 percent (range) over the past year," said Dermot O'Leary, chief economist at Goodbody Stockbrokers.
"We are seeing increasing numbers coming out of the labour force, whether going back to education or emigrating. There has also been less firing on a net basis."
Ireland's government will unveil its fiscal adjustment plans for the next four years on Friday and a majority of economists polled by Reuters have called on the administration to avoid ramping up austerity measures for fear of further depressing domestic demand.
Dublin is relying on exports to return its stricken economy to growth but needs consumer demand to revive if it is to achieve meaningful rates of expansion that will make inroads into its large debt burden and ensure it can exit its EU-IMF rescue programme in 2013.
Dublin's EU and IMF creditors have agreed the government does not need to beat its fiscal targets and a senior IMF official said last month that Ireland will not be able to "pop the champagne" until its unemployment rate starts to come down.
The unemployment benefit figures include part-time, seasonal and casual workers and nearly one in five of those claiming jobless benefit have paid employment of some sort.
(Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by John Stonestreet, Ron Askew)