The Taoiseach has said that unemployment could reach 400,000 by the end of the year.

Brian Cowen was speaking after revealing the highest monthly increase in unemployment in more than 40 years.

Mr Cowen told Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny that an extra 36,500 people joined the dole queues in January, bringing the unadjusted jobless total to 327,900.

Deputy Kenny said the figures were horrendous, the worst in the history of the State, and that the Government's proposals yesterday did nothing to offer hope or confidence to those who had lost their jobs.

Mr Kenny said it amounted to 1,500 people being laid off every working day.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said each lost job cost the State €20,000 per year in social welfare payments and lost tax - the jobs lost in January alone would cost an extra €730m.

He said the Government was focusing on the wrong problem - cutting public spending - rather than on maintaining and replacing jobs.

Live Register up 80% in 12 months: CSO

The Taoiseach said the lessons of the past showed that jobs cannot be saved unless the public finances are stabilised first.

He said politicians had to be honest with the people, and tell them that more jobs would be lost during the year.

Official figures have confirmed that the number of people on the Live Register hit a record high of 327,900 in January.

The Central Statistics Office said the numbers signing on rose by almost 36,500 from December.

The Live Register figure has now surged by more than 80% over the past 12 months.

Read the CSO report in full

The seasonally adjusted figure rose by 33,000 to 326,100, while the unemployment rate jumped to 9.2% up from 8.3% in December.