New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the standardised unemployment rate in March fell to 10%, down from 10.1% in February.

The CSO said that the number of people signing on the Live Register last month fell by 4,700 (1.3%) to stand at 350,600 on a seasonally adjusted basis - its lowest total since February 2009.

In unadjusted terms, a total of 348,676 people were signing on the Live Register in March, down almost 11% or 42,556 on the same time last year.

The Live Register has now effectively fallen for almost three years in a row. 

Today's figures show that on a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of men on the Live Register fell by 1.4% in March, while the number of women signing on decreased by 1.3%.

They also reveal that the number of long term claimants dropped by 10.6% to stand at 160,403. The number of long term male claimants fell by 14.4%, while the number of long term female claimants eased by 2.4%. 

54% of claimants are short term social welfare recipients.

The number of casual and part-time people fell by over 10%, but this category still accounts for over 10% of the Live Register.

However, notwithstanding the good news, unemployment remains a serious issue for the economy - particularly regarding long term and youth unemployment.

Also, today's figures do not include almost 86,000 people on job activation schemes.

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton welcomed the figures, but urged caution on wage increases.

He said it was important to ensure that competitiveness was not eroded and noted that not every sector was enjoying the same type of recovery.

40 jobs planned for Dundalk 

Mr Bruton was speaking at the announcement of 40 new jobs being created by US firm Prometric at its Dundalk complex, which will bring its total workforce in Ireland to 168.

Prometric has also established a €1m research partnership with DCU.

Mr Bruton said the latest unemployment figures confirmed solid progress across all regions, including a decline in long-term unemployment.

He reiterated the Government's determination to deliver sustainable full employment by 2018.

Commenting on today's figures, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said that after hitting a crisis high of 15.1% in February 2012, the unemployment rate has since then started to drop steadily, a clear sign that the labour market is on the road to recovery.

The economist pointed out that the Irish jobless rate is now more than a full percentage point lower than the euro zone average of 11.3%. He said it is likely to continue falling in 2015 all things being equal. 

"It now looks like the monthly jobless rate will in April be back in single digits for the first time since the economic/financial crisis," Mr McQuaid said.