Irish unemployment falls to 7-year low of 8.6 percent

Ireland's unemployment rate has fallen to a seven-year low of 8.6 percent as the country — buoyant again after years of gloom and austerity — faces an election.

Unemployment has steadily improved since peaking at 15.1 percent in 2012, months before Ireland exited dependence on European and International Monetary Fund loans.

Ireland faced bankruptcy in 2010 as the cost of rescuing six domestic banks crippled the country's ability to finance itself. The bailout gave Ireland time to restructure banks, repair its credit rating and repay IMF loans ahead of schedule.

The 5-year-old government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny plans to dissolve parliament Wednesday for a Feb. 26 election. Kenny promises to continue three straight years of economic growth that reached 7 percent in 2015, tops in the European Union.