New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the numbers signing on the Live Register on a seasonally adjusted basis last month fell by 1,800 to stand at 396,900.

This marked the 21st decrease in a row.

The CSO said that in unadjusted terms, there were 391,232 people signing on the Live Register in March 2014, an annual decrease of 33,856 or 8% and the lowest level in five years.

The standardised unemployment rate eased to 11.8% in March from 11.9% in February, the CSO added. That is the lowest rate since April 2009.

Breaking down the figures, they show that on a seasonally adjusted basis the Live Register the number of men on the Live Register fell by 1,400 while the number of women signing on decreased by 300.

The number of long-term claimants on the Live Register fell by 4.6% to 179,335 on an annual basis, with the number of male claimants down 7.2% and the number of female claimants climbing by 1.6%.

Today's figures show that the number of people aged 25 and over on the Live Register fell by 7.3% while the number of people aged under 25 declined by 11.5% as that age group continues to see high levels of emigration. 

The CSO says that the Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment and it includes part time workers, seasonal and casual workers who are entitled to Jobseekers' Benefit or Jobseekers' Allowance.

Commenting on today's figures, Investec chief economist Philip O'Sullivan said that the latest improvement in the Live Register partly reflects the return to positive net job creation in the economy. 

But he said that despite the improvement in the headline figures, the problem of long-term unemployment remains acute. He noted that 45.8% of all claimants were long-term claimants in March and said that tackling this issue remains a major priority for policymakers. 

"While the Irish standardised unemployment rate is now inside the euro zone (whose unemployment rate was 11.9% in February) for the first time since late 2008, that is not much by way of consolation for those awaiting a return to work," Mr O'Sullivan said.