The number of people signing on the Live Register increased again in August, though the monthly rise was not as big as in the previous two months.

But the Central Statistics Office show that the increase over the 12 months to July set another new record, while the unemployment rate moved above 6%.

The CSO said there was an increase of 9,144 from July, bringing the total to 247,384, the highest for 10 years. The Live Register jumped by more than 73,000, or 42%, in the 12 months to July beating the previous month's record.

The seasonally adjusted figure rose by 9,100 to 235,100, while the unemployment rate moved up from 5.8% in July to 6.1%. Males accounted for 7,400 of this increase.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association said the situation is frightening and accused the Government of standing idly by.

It said that many small businesses are reducing working hours and wage rates in order to survive the economic downturn.

Economists are now predicting that the unemployment rate will rise to 8% next year.