Official figures show that the number of people at work in the economy in the second quarter of this year was just over 1.82 million, down 37,800 or 2% compared with the same period last year.

The Central Statistics Office said, however, that the 2% annual fall was the lowest since the third quarter of 2008. The construction sector accounted for more than half of the fall.

The CSO's quarterly national household survey shows that 304,500 people were unemployed in the period, up 10,900 from a year earlier. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 14.2%, up from 13.9% in the first three months of the year.

The CSO has also revised up the latest estimate of the jobless rate - which came in the August Live Register figures - from 14.4% to 14.5%.

The long-term unemployment rate was 7.7%, with those out of work for more than a year now making up almost 54% of the unemployed.

The total number of people in the labour force in the second quarter was 2,125,900, representing a decrease of 26,800 (-1.2%) over the year.

The CSO said the biggest drop in employment over the year was in the 25-34 age group. Employment fell in all regions except the Mid-West and Midlands.

Employment fell in seven of the 14 categories over the year, with the biggest drop again in the construction sector - down 19,600 or 15.6%. The accommodation and food service sector recorded a fall of 12,600 or 10.5%. The CSO said these two sectors made up 85% of the total fall in employment over the year.

The number of people working in the public sector was unchanged compared with the second quarter of last year, but fell 1.3% when temporary employment for the census was excluded.

Big rise in number of people emigrating

CSO figures also show a big rise in the number of Irish people emigrating. Overall, 76,400 people emigrated in the year to April, up more than 11,000 or 16.9% compared with a year earlier.

Irish nationals accounted for just over 40,000 of this, up sharply from 27,700 a year earlier. Emigration by people from the newer EU member states accounted for a fifth of the total.

But the number of immigrants also rose over the year - from 30,800 to 42,300 - leaving net outward migration almost unchanged at 34,100.

The CSO said the population rose by 13,600 over the year to 4,484,300. The CSO said the natural increase in population - births minus deaths - continued to be very strong. There were just over 75,000 births during the year, while 27,400 people died. Dublin recorded the biggest fall in population, while the Mid-East region showed the biggest increase.