A massive 371,271 people are unemployed in Ireland, the highest figure on record.

Statistics from the Central Statistics Office also show that 173,279 people became unemployed over the past 12 months, the highest year-on-year increase since records began in 1967.

The Irish unemployment rate hit 11 percent in March, up from 10.4 percent in February.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen told parliament that a drop in unemployment was unlikely in the short term.

"The recent rise showed some signs of abating however a fall is unlikely in coming months," Cowen said.

Opposition leader Enda Kenny of Fine Gael called the increase "appalling."

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