The outgoing coalition Government is hoping the best employment figures for seven years will win them renewed support ahead of Friday’s election.
According to the Central Statistics Office, the number of people in work increased by 2.3% – or 44,100 – last year, bringing the total in work to more than 1.98 million.
The figure is at its highest since the early months of 2009 and means the jobs market has been growing steadily for more than three years.
The growth was recorded by the Quarterly National Household Survey, considered the best measure of the labour market, which also put the unemployment rate at 9.1% – 187,500 people.
Those out of work for more than a year make up more than half of the total.
But Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the report was a clear sign of economic recovery.
“More people are now at work than at any stage since 2009, with some 142,000 jobs created since the trough of the crisis,” he said.
“These figures provide evidence that the policies this Government has implemented are having a positive effect on people and the labour market.”
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the rate of jobs growth put Ireland right at the top of any international measure.
“The challenge now is to continue to support our entrepreneurs and workers with continued policies as they continue to grow jobs and get our economy and country back on track,” he said.
The CSO report revealed that 25,200 women and 18,900 men secured jobs last year.
And there were increases in jobs in 12 of the 14 categories that the statisticians measure, with construction enjoying the biggest growth, up 8.5% or creating 9,900 jobs.
The greatest rate of decline in employment was recorded in the financial, insurance and real estate sectors.
The business lobby group Ibec used the positive report to reiterate its warning that political instability would stall recovery.
Chief executive Danny McCoy said : “Irish business can create a further 60,000 new jobs in 2016, but hiring plans could be threatened if the election results in an unstable or anti-enterprise government.”
“Sensible economic and enterprise policy is needed to support growth and job creation.”