Unemployment rate fell slightly to 7.2% in December

The latest figure is 1.7% lower than the same time last year

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The unemployment rate dropped to 7.2% in December, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The seasonally adjusted rate was down 0.1% compared to November, and compares to the 8.9% rate recorded in December 2015.

In total, 157,700 people were out of work in December - the lowest since the economic crash.

The CSO also highlights that the youth unemployment rate (which includes people aged between 15 and 24) was 14.5% in December - a decrease from 15.4% the previous month.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar welcomed the figures, saying: “Today’s figures confirm that our economy has continued to improve during 2016 resulting in a reduction of 35,500 in the number of people who are unemployed.

"I am determined to continue to make more changes for the better this year to ensure that the benefits of economic recovery are felt by every individual, household and region in the country through reduced unemployment, higher living standards and enhanced social protection.”

He pledged to make 'every effort' to move another 20,000 from welfare to employment this year, as well as to make progress towards an unemployment target of 5-6%.