New figures from the Central Statistics Office shows that the Live Register dropped by 3,000 in March - a fall of 0.7% - to stand at 434,800 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

This indicates an unemployment rate of 14.3%, down from the 14.4% reported in February.

In unadjusted terms, the Live Register was down 1.6% or 7,139 in the year to the end of March.

The unemployment benefit figures include part-time workers and seasonal and casual workers, and the CSO says they are not designed to measure the number of people unemployed.

Today's figures also show the number of males signing on the Live Register fell by 2,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis, while the number of women fell by 900.

The CSO says the number of male long term claimants on the Live Register in the year to March increased by 10,235 (8.3%) while the number of long term unemployed women grew by 7,603 (17.3%). This gives an overall increase of 17,383 in the number of long term dole claimants.