The visualisation below represents a summary of unemployment rates across the EU27 by month since January 2007 until November 2012. Each country within the EU27 may be selected, compared and contrasted to assess how the economic crisis impacted each state in terms of unemployment. The rate presented here is the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate which represents the percentage of the labour force classified as unemployed. The report, raw data along with metadata is available from Eurostat.

By visualising this data across a time line we can identify the numerous unemployment spikes that occurred due to the various economic events across the EU27. Stand out trends for example are the rise in Irish unemployment between 2007 (4%) to 2010 (14.8%) and its subsequent plateau or the dramatic rise in unemployment in Greece (26.6%) and Spain (26.8%) laterally.

In terms of raw numbers Eurostat reports that the November 2012 unemployment rate of 10.9% equates to 26.06 million people unemployed across the EU27.

By using the select filter located on the left side of the visualisation, countries may be selected for comparison and then for a more detailed analysis at the base of the viz a single country may be selected. In each case by hovering over any part of the viz a detailed value will be shown in a pop up window.   The data and images of this visualisation may be extracted using the tools located at the bottom of the page.

See the Viz on the AIRO site here:

Eoghan McCarthy



Earlier this year Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin at the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) contributed an informative blog post to IAN on the geography of unemployment in Ireland. In particular, their post addresses the lack of data on, and analysis of, the geography of unemployment at a sub-regional level.

Official unemployment data in Ireland are provided every quarter by the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS), which releases details about both the number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate at national and regional levels. In addition, on a monthly basis the CSO releases Live Register data detailing the number of claimants in each social welfare office. Based on this data release, the CSO also estimate unemployment rates at the regional level, but not at the sub-regional level.

NIRSA provided an insight into the sub-regional unemployment dynamics based on an analysis of the changes in the absolute number of claimants in all the social welfare offices. NIRSA was also able to map these dynamics based on some ground-breaking work on estimating the catchment areas of these social welfare offices. Unfortunately this does not inform us about the unemployment rates at a sub-regional level. Apart from the fact that the live register data are not designed to measure unemployment, there are no official labour force data for the individual social welfare offices. As a result, it is not possible to discuss a given catchment area’s unemployment growth in terms of that catchment area’s overall labour force.

Building on the work of NIRSA, students at the NUI Maynooth Department of Geography set out to address this issue and have estimated unemployment rates at a sub-regional level, based on the total number of claimants in social welfare offices and a proxy for the labour force: the 2006 labour force in the different catchment areas, based on the 2006 Census data.

It should be noted that a number of  caveats should be attached to the results:

1)      The number of claimants is not the same as the official number of unemployed as used in the QNHS. The Live Register is an over-estimation of the official number of unemployed since it includes, amongst others, part-time workers, seasonal workers and casual workers.

2)      The definition of the labour force applied in the Census differs from the definition applied by the QNHS.

3)      The social welfare office catchment areas developed by NIRSA are estimates, based on the assumption that a recipient will register at the nearest office to their residence.  The areas are approximate catchments, wherein the vast majority of people live within the designated area, but a relatively small number of claimants might live beyond its bounds. To get an indication of the discrepancy in the two datasets we have subtracted the number of unemployed in the Census from the Number of Claimants in the Life Register and expressed the difference as a percentage of the total labour force in 2006. For all but five of the 122 office the resulting figure was in the range of minus 4.5 per cent and plus 3.9 per cent. The main outliers concerned offices in the Dublin area. The figure for the nation as a whole was minus 1.2 per cent, indicating that the data on unemployed in the live register are lower than the numbers of unemployed in the Census but that the effect on the unemployment rate is relatively limited.

4)      The labour force has experienced significant changes since 2006 due to natural dynamics and migration effects. The effect for the overall period appears to be limited – between June 2006 and June 2010 the labour force shrank by 20,000. However, the effect for individual areas may be greater.

All these issues together mean that we have to be very careful in interpreting the calculated unemployment rate figures. The figures strongly overestimate the official figures presented in the recent QNHS. However, the results may nonetheless serve as an informative analysis of the geography of Irish unemployment since most of the issues influence the figures for all sub-regions in the same way.

The map below presents the geography of “unemployment rates” in September 2010 (with thanks to Justin Gleeson at NIRSA). A relatively large number of areas with high unemployment rates are found in The Border Region, The Midlands the South-East and the ‘Eastern Corridor’. But great intra-regional and even intra-county differences exist. Striking are the relatively low unemployment rates in many areas of County Dublin, County Kerry (with the notable exception of Tralee) and West Cork. In comparison, the urban centres of Dublin, Cork and Galway appear to be faring relatively better.

Chris van Egeraat

The last couple of years have been a disaster with respect to employment.  If it wasn’t for emigration, the unemployment rate would be undoubtedly be above 15%. In November 2007, as we coasted into the crisis, the unemployment rate was 4.8% with 169,700 people on the Live Register.  In November 2010 the unemployment rate was 13.5% with 438,800 people on the Live Register.  That’s a 258% increase in those signing on the Live Register.  Yesterday a number of news sources were reporting data from the Small Firms Assocition (SFA), KavanaghFennell accountants, Vision Net, and the IDA.

The SFA noted that 1,075 jobs were lost every week in 2010, over 60,000 redundancies being reported to DETI.  38% of those jobs were lost from the services sector, with 20% lost from manufacturing.  KavanaghFennell reported that more that 4 companies a day went out of business last year, with 1,525 Irish businesses declared insolvent, a rise of 8% on 2009.  Of these, 30% (472) were construction-related companies, 279 were service-related companies and 177 were in retail.  Vision Net reported that liquidations declined by 8pc, but remained over 2,000 (57% of which were declared insolvent).

On the plus side, Companies’ Registration Office reported that 14,015 limited companies were incorporated in Ireland during 2010, an increase of 4.7% on 2009.  In addition, IDA Ireland companies created 10,897 new jobs last year, with 126 FDIs secured.  Unfortunately, 13,066 companies were dissolved in 2010 and there were 9,545 job losses in IDA-supported companies.  In effect, it was a year of employment stabilization with only a year-on-year increase of 11,800 on the Live Register, and the number of companies operating in the country remaining roughly the same.

The absolute priority for 2011 and the incoming government has to be job creation, either through attracting in new FDI, helping indigenous companies expand, or enabling and encouraging new start-ups.  For the past couple of years job creation has been paid little more than lip-service, with attention focused on the bank bailouts and public finances.  We now need to focus on the real economy, getting credit flowing to business and putting in place schemes and programmes to get people back to work.  This needs to be the year of job creation.

Rob Kitchin

According to the latest Quarterly National Household Survey (Q2 2010, QNHS) from the CSO the national unemployment rate currently stands at 13.6%. The current rate has increased from 12.9% in the previous quarter and increased from a rate of 12% a year ago.

The QNHS has been in operation since September 1997 (replacing the old Labour Force Survey) and therefore provides a useful means of illustrating and monitoring labour market trends over time. The bulk of the data available through the survey is only available at a national level, however the survey does provide a breakdown of ILO Economic Status (In employment, Unemployed, In Labour Force, Unemployment Rate and Participation Rate) at a NUTS3 regional level. The unemployment rate here is calculated using the number of unemployed as a percentage of the total labour force and is based on the ILO (International Labour Office) labour force classification. This means that it’s also possible to put the Irish unemployment figures (national and regional) in context with international figures.


From the beginning of the survey up to the end of 2007 the unemployment rate In Ireland initially dropped from 10.4% in Q4 1997 to a low of 3.5% in Q3 2000. From this point up until the end of 2007 the rate remained relatively stable with an average rate of 4.3%. In early 2008 we started to feel the full effects of the downturn with large numbers signing on the live register (see here) and witnessed the subsequent unrelenting climb of the unemployment rate to today’s lofty heights of 13.6% (Figure 1).

Figure 1: ILO Unemployment Rate 2007 to 2010

Much of this increase has been attributed to the collapse of the construction industry and housing boom in Ireland. This has had a major effect on the unemployment rate due to the strong over-dependence of the workforce on construction related employment. A significant number of redundancies in industry related employment have also significantly contributed towards this increasing rate. Figure 2 details the strong dependence of the workforce on construction – at the end of 2006 almost 12.5%(268,400) of the labour force (employed and unemployed) were employed in construction related employment. This figure is now at 5.8% (125,300).

Figure 2: Sectoral Employment as a proportion of Labour Force

Another worrying aspect of the current unemployment trend is the increased number who are now classed as being ‘long-term unemployed’. According to the CSO this relates to those unemployed for one year or more expressed as a percentage of the total labour force. Since the beginning of 2008 the number of people now classed as ‘Long-term Unemployed’ has increased by 97,000. The Q1 2010 figure now represents 5.9% of the total labour force (Figure 3).

Figure 3: % of Labour Force classed as Long-Term Unemployed

European context

As per Q1 2010 the unemployment rate (12.9%) for Ireland was the 6th highest in the EU27 with only the Slovak Republic (15.1%), Lithuania (18.1%), Estonia (19.8%), Spain (20%) and Latvia (20.4%) with higher rates. Our current standing is in stark contrast to the situation 4 years ago when the unemployment rate in Ireland was the lowest in the EU27 at 4.2% (Figure 4). Over this 4 year period Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Spain have witnessed the greatest increases in unemployment rates. On the other hand countries such as Poland, Germany, Auatria and Malta have improved and unemployment rates have decreased (Figure 5).

Figure 4: ILO Unemployment Rate - Q1 2010

Figure 5: ILO Unemployment Rate - Q1 2006


There is considerable variance in unemployment rates across the country with the highest rate of unemployment currently in the South-East (18.1%) and the lowest in Dublin (11.5%). Dublin currently accounts for 23% of all those classed as unemployed in the country with a total of 69,500. This number has increased by 3.8% since Q1 2010 and by 7.5% in the last year. The rate of increase outside Dublin has been much higher and since Q2 2007 the regions that have been hit the hardest are the South-East, South-West and the West (Figure 6).

Figure 6: % of Labour Forced classed as Unemployed, Q2 2007 and Q2 2010

Justin Gleeson

The ESRI released their Quarterly Economic Commentary today.  The Summary is here and the press release here.  Basically they see the situation stabilising this year and improving slightly next year.  That doesn’t sound too bad, but some of their data and conclusions are, I think, very worrying.  Here’s what they say about GDP/GNP:

  • “For 2010, we expect GDP to grow by ¼ percent in volume terms; the corresponding figure for GNP is for a fall of ½ per cent.
  • For 2011, we expect GDP to grow by 2¾ per cent and GNP to grow by 2¼ per cent. While this return to growth is to be welcomed, it should be seen as a modest pace of growth.”

The government deficit will be 11.5% of GDP in 2010, but will rise to 19.75% because of bailout for Anglo Irish Bank and INBS (19.75% is a massive amount of debt).  They suggest it will be 10% GDP for 2011 if austerity measures are implemented.  They argue against stimulus packages based on the possible costs per job.  They think that investment in education and training would be a better bet.  I’d be sceptical that by training people jobs will magically appear and the benefits to stimulus are savings on welfare, real outputs, the creation of infrastructure that will aid indigenous companies and attract FDI, and multiplier effects across the private sector.  Whether the markets/banks will be prepared to lend for stimulus programmes is a different matter.

With respect to employment, ESRI expects it to average about 1.85m for 2010 and 2011, with unemployment averaging 13.25% in 2010 and 13% in 2011.

The statistic that stands out most for me, however, is the prediction that 120,000 people will emigrate: 70,000 in the year ending April 2010 and 50,000 in the year ending April 2011.  This will take us back to the kinds of numbers emigrating at the end of 1980s.  Such emigration wi’ll provide a little bit of a safety valve on welfare payments, but the country will also lose a cohort of relatively young workers, many of them well skilled.  And it will exacerbate the housing supply issue and potentially slow up recovery there.  Given the state of the economy and levels of unemployment in lower age groups such emigration is no surprise, but it will have ripple effects in coming years.

We desperately need a jobs programme – not aspirational statements – but an actual programme with an associated strategy and road map, and it to be implemented and driven forward.

Rob Kitchin

In response to a piece in the New York Times about Spain’s growing unemployment problems, New N Economics has published a couple of interesting charts showing the growth of total and youth (15-24) unemployment in 25 countries between January and October 2009 using Eurostat data.  The post notes that whilst Spain has had a 32% increase in youth unemployment in this period, rising to a total of 49.2%.  Worryingly Ireland had the largest increase, with a 52.7% increase (and now has the second highest youth unemployment rate of the 25 countries compared).  Moreover, Ireland now has the third highest total unemployment rate at 12.8% (only Spain and Latvia fair worse).  The concern in terms of future talent is the extent to which the rapidly growing youth rate will translate into brain drain emigration.

Unemployment for different countries, Jan and Oct 09

Unemployment in different countries for 15-24 yr olds, Jan and Oct 09

Rob Kitchin

At present Live Register data are only available at the scale of the 120 or so social welfare offices.  These areas, which have no defined boundaries, whilst telling the story of Live Register at a sub-county scale are quite large in size, and mask the complex patterns of claimants on the ground.  As any local knows, not all places in an area are equally affected by the recession, with some neighbourhoods being disproportionally hit by job losses.  As studies in the UK and elsewhere demonstrate, where data can be mapped at the postcode level, large variations can occur across just a few streets.  Such evidence is important because in a time of declining resources for intervention it is more effective to target those resources at areas of most need.

To date, maps of Live Register data are, at best, mapped at the county scale.  The three maps below, in contrast, show the unemployment rate ranked by area for Dublin mapped at Enumerator Area scale (c. 330 households) for 2008, and Live Register recipients for August 2008, and change in the number of recipients between August 08 and February 09, at the new Small Area scale (c. 100-120 households) for the Ballyfermot/Chapelizod Partnership Area.

Unemployment Dublin EA scale 2008

Live Register recipients Aug 08

Live register recipients increase Aug 08 to Feb 09

In the first map, the areas that are shaded dark brown are in the top decile for unemployment rate.  In the second map, the areas shaded red have the highest numbers of claimants.  With respect to the third map, the areas in red are those that have experienced significant increases in Live Register claimants, whereas those in dark blue show places where people up to Feb 09 have so far retained their jobs.  In general, what the map shows is that existing areas of high numbers of claimants and the areas immediately surrounding them are those areas gaining the most new claimants and that those areas with low numbers of claimants remain relatively low.  In this case, it is in parts of Ballyfermot that claimants have grown, whereas Chapelizod weathers the storm quite well, reflecting the different labour markets that their respective inhabitants are/were employed in.

The study was undertaken by NIRSA working with Ballyfermot/Chapelizod and Northside Partnerships and the Department of Social and Family Affairs (DSFA) and was published by Dublin City Council earlier in the year.  Neighbourhood maps were created for all forms of Live Register claims at the new Small Area scale.  These Small Areas, created by the National Centre for Geocomputation for Ordnance Survey Ireland, will form the micro-geography for the 2011 census.

At present the research remains a one-off pilot study, but it does highlight two things: 1) the geography of unemployment, and the recession in general, is highly uneven and is not affecting all areas equally; 2) that the evidence base for making key policy decisions would be significantly enhanced by these kinds of data.

Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin