SIPTU Economist Marie Sherlock welcomed the latest Live Register figures, indicating a consistent decline in the seasonally adjusted numbers of people signing-on over the last six months of 2012, but warned that the statistics hid the impact of emigration. The standardised unemployment rate (SUR) in December 2012 was 14.6%, unchanged from November but below the year high of 15% in February last year.She said: “Just under 8000 craft workers have left the Live Register over the 12 months to December 2012. This exodus of craft workers off the Live Register and presumably out of the country, accounts for almost three-quarters of the fall in the numbers signing on during 2012.”She added: “Part of the reduction in the Live Register is also attributable to the increased numbers in the Jobsbridge and Tús schemes. There was a 5.7% increase, of 4568 places, in the numbers engaged in labour market activation schemes over the 12 months to November 2012.  Overall, two out of three people who came off the Live Register in the past year were under the age of 25 and it appears that a number of these are now on Jobsbridge and other back to education schemes. The real test will be to retain these workers at decent rates of pay and conditions.“During 2013 the challenge for the Government will be to tackle the major issue of long term unemployment. The numbers signing on for 12 months or more has receded from the 200,000 mark recorded in July and August of 2012 but the share remains at a very substantial level of 44% of the Live Register.”