A large rise in unemployment in the latest figures just released has led to speculation that Ireland's downturn is set to continue.

Unemployment is now at 12.6 per cent, leaving 436,900 people seeking work, the highest number ever. Meanwhile, redundancies soared, with over 6,000 losing their jobs in January alone.

Tax revenues plummeted, with an 18 per cent drop year on year from January 2009 to January 2010

The forecast is that unemployment will continue to rise to over 13 per cent later in the year.

This is despite large numbers emigrating, especially to Australia, after the employment picture turned sour.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises group warned that the numbers did not bode well for the rest of 2010.

"The figures are even worse than this time last year. It's showing a continuing deterioration and we're very fearful that the next three months will be even worse," ISME chief executive Mark Fielding stated.

Main opposition party Fine Gael claimed that statements by the government that the worst was over were "dangerously premature".

However, the Government stated returns for January were "in line with expectations."

Almost twice as many men as women were laid off in the last month, pointing to the continued loss of manufacturing jobs

Social welfare line in Dublin City