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People on pandemic payment 'not classified as unemployed' but rate would be 16.5% if they were, says CSO

The rate would be the highest ever in the CSO’s series, dating back to 1998.

LAST UPDATE | 9 Apr 2020

TWO SEPARATE UNEMPLOYMENT rates have been published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to take account of the extraordinary circumstances being observed in the labour market.

In its monthly bulletin published this morning, the CSO said people in receipt of the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) “do not meet the internationally agreed criteria to be considered as unemployed” and therefore can’t be counted in the usual seasonally adjusted rate.

Despite this, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has nonetheless increased to 5.4% for March from 4.8% in February.

As of the end of last month, 283,037 persons in receipt of the PUP and the CSO finds that, when these people are included, the adjusted unemployment rate jumps to 16.5%.

This figure of 16.5% would represent the highest monthly rate in the CSO’s series, all the way back to 1998.

The Covid-19 PUP is payable to people who have become fully unemployed (including self-employed people). People who have had their hours reduced can apply for the short-time work support. 

Looking at the figures in more detail, the unemployment rate with the PUP included is 15.4% for males and 17.8% for females. It is 34% for persons aged 15 to 24 years and 14.1% for persons aged 25 years and over.

Speaking about this morning’s figures, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said they demonstrated “the unique nature of the challenge we face” and warned they could increase further in April.

Doherty said that civil servants working in her department essentially “dealt with three years of activity within the last month alone”.

“Despite today’s stark figures, we must remember this is a temporary health emergency and we must ensure that it is also a temporary employment emergency for as many people as possible,” she said. 


They figures comes as the government also announced that 33,000 people have closed their pandemic unemployment payment, with 80% of recipients stating they have been rehired by their employer.

To date, there are 507,000 people claiming the emergency payment. Yesterday, a total of 19,000 had closed their claim with the Revenue Commissioners.

Assistant Secretary at the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan said the majority of people are closing their claim primarily because their employers have signed up to the temporary wage subsidy scheme.

Approximately 80% of these claims were closed as the recipient is now back in work, said Canavan, explaining that these workers have been rehired by their employer.

She said there was a lag between the introduction of the pandemic payment and the wage subsidy scheme, with some businesses letting go of staff before the wage subsidy plan was brought in. 

Those people who were let go signed up to the pandemic payment “in good faith”, she said, however, it is now not needed.

She said 5% of people who closed their claim said they did so as they were claiming another social welfare payment, while 15% did not give any specific reason why they were closing their claim. 

The department has now put facility in place where recipients who want to refund the payment can do so. The details of the new mechanism can be found on the website

“The department is carrying out the necessary checks to ensure that claims are valid, and the payments are warranted. If anyone has claimed the payment in error or wishes to make a refund, they should do so the earliest opportunity by accessing the refund facility,” Canavan said yesterday.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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