The commuter-belt towns of Kells, Navan and Trim in Co Meath, which have been badly hit by job losses in the last year, all recorded a surprise drop in the numbers of people signing on, according to additional live register figures released by the CSO at the weekend.

While the overall number of people claiming social-welfare benefits in August increased by 4,300 over July and now stands at over 440,000, Meath was the only county in the country to record an actual drop in the number of jobless, albeit a marginal one of around 250.

Over the boom years, the population of the Meath towns, along with other towns on the outskirts of Dublin, increased rapidly as Dublin-based workers, priced out by the capital's soaring property costs, moved out but commuted back to the city to work.

But the move meant that the same commuter towns were disproportionately hit when the recession kicked in.

Another commuter town, Drogheda, has also recorded a small drop in the numbers claiming the dole while the towns of Athy, Maynooth and Newbridge in Co Kildare recorded only a handful of extra people signing on.

These figures indicate that number of people losing their jobs in these unemployment black spots has, at least, bottomed out.

The detailed CSO figures also show that the number of non-nationals signing on has continued to drop for the second month in a row. While the drop was small, it is a sign that non-nationals hit by the rise in unemployment, particularly in the construction sector, may be opting to leave the country rather than wait around to see if the job situation picks up.