Ireland's rapidly expanding economy has led to an additional 48,000 people at work in the third quarter of 2017, an increase of 2.2%, according to the Central Statistics Office. 

A total of 2,206,800 million people were in employment during the third quarter of last year, just below the 2007 peak of 2.24 million workers. 

The biggest increases in employment were seen in education and administrative jobs in the 12 months to the end of the third quarter of 2017.  

The CSO also said there was an increase in full time employment of almost 7%, while part time employment dropped.  

There were 163,500 people unemployed in the country in the third quarter, a drop of 18% in the year.

It also marked the 21st quarter in succession where unemployment has declined on an annual basis. 

When seasonally adjusted, the unemployment rate remained at 6.7% over the quarter.

40% of those out of work were long term unemployed, a significant drop on the rate of 49.5% the same time the previous year. 

Today's figures are included in a new Labour Force Survey which replaces the CSO's Quarterly National Household Survey. 

The new survey sees the introduction of Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI), a redesigned questionnaire and enhancements to the survey methodology.

Meanwhile, separate figures from the CSO today show that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 6.2% in December.

This was down from the revised rate of 6.4% in November and compared to a jobless rate of 7.5% in December of 2016. 

Commenting on today's CSO figures, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid noted that they were better than expectations. 

Mr McQuaid said that although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the labour market has improved dramatically over the past few years on the back of the strengthening economy. 

He said that after today's positive figures, Merrion now expects a net jobs rise of just over 50,000 in 2017. 

"As regards 2018, another positive year for the labour market is envisaged, though the net jobs gain is forecast to be lower than last year, at around 40,000," the economist added.