State training agency FÁS has said it is too early to say whether a recent slowdown in the number of people signing on represents a change in the underlying trend in unemployment.

The numbers on the Live Register rose by 40,000 in the second quarter of the year, after an 80,000 jump in the first three months.

In its latest quarterly commentary, it says one of the main factors in recent months has been a marked slowdown in the number of workers from the newer EU states joining the Live Register. FÁS says this figure fell from 16,000 in the first quarter to just 1,000 in the second.

The agency adds that while much of this was due to people leaving the country, another factor may have been an investigation by the Department of Social & Family Affairs into fraudulent claims made by people living outside Ireland.

FÁS economist Brian McCormick says there has been no let-up in the rate of redundancies, and it is too early to form a clear picture of the underlying unemployment trend.

The agency also says part-time employment has increased 4.6% so far compared with the same period last year, and now accounts for one in five jobs. It says employers may be using part-time work as a measure to avoid or postpone lay-offs.

FÁS says there are now twice as many men as women on the Live Register, and the gap between the two has grown by 100,000 over the last two years.

In the first six months of the year, job vacancies notified to FÁS were down 52% from a year earlier, though the rate of decline slowed in the second quarter. There was a 73% drop in vacancies for skilled building workers, 67% for clerical workers and 55% for IT jobs.