There was an increase in employment of 1,200 in the year to the fourth quarter of 2012, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office.

This is the first annual increase in employment recorded since the second quarter of 2008.

The Quarterly National Household Survey for the fourth quarter of 2012 reveals a decrease in unemployment of 19,200.

Most of this is accounted for by a fall of 18,000 people who have left the labour force.

The CSO said the annual growth in employment was 0.1% in the fourth quarter of last year.

This compared with a fall in employment of 0.2% in the third quarter, and an annualised decrease of 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Although today's figures show employment growth, the CSO cautions that it is a very small positive figure.

The average number of persons unemployed in 2012 was 316,000 - a decrease of 700 from the 2011 average figure.

The number of unemployed in the fourth quarter was 294,000, a fall of 6.1%.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell over the fourth quarter from 14.6% to 14.2% now.

Today's survey also shows that the long-term unemployment rate fell from 9.1% to 8.2% over the year to the fourth quarter.

Long-term unemployment accounted for 59.9% of total unemployment compared with 62.5% a year earlier and 55.3% in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The CSO said that employment fell in eight of the 14 economic sectors it covers.

The biggest rate of decline was seen in the public administration and defence sector (down 6.2%), construction (down 4.3%) and transportation and storage (down 4%).

The biggest rates of increase were recorded in agriculture, forestry and fishing, which rose 12.1% and the information and communication sector, up 7%.

Full-time employment fell by 12,800 (0.9%) over the year, but the CSO said this was offset by an increase in part-time employment of 14,000 (up 3.2%)