The unemployment rate in the third quarter of this year was 14.4%, up from 14.2% in the previous quarter, official figures suggest.

The Central Statistics Office said the number of people at work fell by 2.5%, or 46,000, over the previous 12 months to just over 1.8 million.

Unemployment increased by 5.3% over the year to 314,700.

The CSO's quarterly national household survey also showed that the long-term unemployment rate increased from 6.5% to 8.4% over the year.

Long-term unemployment accounted for more than 56% of unemployment in the third quarter.

A breakdown of the unemployment figures shows that the number of women out of work rose above 100,000 for the first time since the CSO began compiling these figures in 1998.

Male employment rose by 2.3% over the year to 206,200, while female unemployment jumped by 11.4% to 108,600.

The total number of people in the labour force in the third quarter of 2011 was 2.12m, a fall of 30,200 or 1.4% over the year.

The CSO figures show that employment levels fell in 10 of its 14 categories over the 12 months to the third quarter of this year.

But, for the first time since 2008, the construction sector did not show the biggest drop in employment.

Although construction employment fell by 6,800 over the year, the CSO says the trend has been relatively flat over the past three quarters.

The biggest falls were in education (12,000), accommodation and food service (8,500) and industry (7,700).

The CSO urges caution on the education decline, however, saying this may have been influenced by a methodology issue last year.

The CSO says the falls in employment were concentrated mainly in the 25-34 and 20-24 age groups.

Full-time employment fell by more than 53,000, but part-time employment rose by just over 7,000.