The numbers signing on the Live Register fell by 3,300 in December, on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office.

A total of 402,800 people were on the Live Register last month - its lowest total since May 2009. December marked the 18th consecutive monthly decrease on the Live Register.

The CSO also said that the standardised unemployment rate fell to 12.4% in December from 12.5% in November.

In unadjusted terms, today's figures show that 395,411 people were signing on the Live Register last month. This represents an annual fall of 23,322, 6.7%.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Live Register showed a monthly fall of 2,400 men in December while the number of women signing on decreased by 900.

The number of long-term claimants signing on in December amounted to 179,621.

The CSO said the number of male long-term claimants fell by 6.6% in the year to December, but the number of women rose by 2.2%. 

In the year to December, the number of people aged 25 and over on the Live Register fell by 5.8% and the number of people aged under 25 decreased by 11.6%.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the figures but said that while they were heading in the right direction they were still too high.

The CSO pointed out that youth unemployment rates have been falling since July 2010.

Commenting on today's figures, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said that while emigration has been a contributory factor in bringing down the numbers on the Live Register, there is clear evidence that employment conditions in most sectors of the economy have generally improved in the past few months.

"The unemployment rate remains the key indicator as far as the economy is concerned and steady progress is being made in terms of bringing it down," Mr McQuaid said. 

"Although the recovery path for the labour market won’t entirely be smooth, we do think that the level of unemployment will continue to fall over the course of 2014. It does now appear as though the jobless rate has peaked, and we are looking for it to fall back to 12.2% this year from 13.2% in 2013, which itself was the lowest level since 2009," the economist added.