New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the numbers signing on the Live Register in May fell by 1,600 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

This brings the Live Register total to 391,800 - its lowest total in five years.

In adjusted terms, the CSO said that a total of 388,764 people were signing on last month, down 7.8% on the same time last year.

The standardised unemployment rate in May was 11.8%, unchanged from the April figure.

Today's figures show that the number of male claimants fell by 9.9% in the year to May, while the number of female claimants fell by 4.2%. 

They also show that the number of long term claimants on the Live Register stood at 183,370 in May - 47% of all claimants. The CSO said the number of male long term claimants fell  by 7.2% in the year to May, while females rose by 1.8%.

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 over the past year or so, there is clear evidence that there is more to it than just that, with employment conditions in the majority of sectors in the economy generally improving in the past few months.

Mr McQuaid said that 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. 

"We think that the level of unemployment will continue to fall over the course of 2014. We are looking for the jobless rate to fall back to 11.6% on average this year from 13.1% in 2013," the economist added.