Covid-19 restrictions led to 6.6m fewer hours worked per week at end of 2020

CSO’s Labour Force Survey highlights impact of pandemic on labour market

The decline  was due to the absences from work, which rose by 70.5 per cent to 324,900 on the same period in 2019, CSO figures show.

The decline was due to the absences from work, which rose by 70.5 per cent to 324,900 on the same period in 2019, CSO figures show.

 

The number of hours worked per week in the Irish economy fell by 6.6 million in the final quarter of last year, reflecting the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the labour market.

The decline, detailed in the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO) latest Labour Force Survey, was due to the absences from work, which rose by 70.5 per cent to 324,900 on the same period in 2019.

The final quarter of last year coincided with the imposition of Level 5 restrictions in late October.

The CSO said the impact on hours worked varied across the different economic sectors. The largest share of people employed but classified as being “away from work” – 39 per cent – was in the accommodation and food services sector, which encompasses the hard-hit hospitality sector.

The survey provides a snapshot of the Irish labour market during the pandemic.

It shows the Covid-adjusted unemployment rate at the end of last year stood at just under 20 per cent but this rose to 25 per cent in January as a result of the increased restrictions imposed after Christmas.

Employment

The CSO figures show employment fell in seven of the 14 sectors of the economy in 2020. The worst-hit sector was accommodation and food services, which saw employment fall by nearly 26 per cent or 46,100.

This was followed by the administration and support services sector, which saw employment fall by nearly 27 per cent or 30,000.

The information and communication sector, which includes the State’s big IT businesses, had an employment rise 9.3 per cent or 11,800.

Overall, there was an annual decrease in employment of 55,000 (-2.3 per cent) in the year to the fourth quarter of 2020, bringing total employment in the Irish economy to 2.3 million.

This compared with an annual increase of 3.5 per cent or 79,900 in the same quarter of 2019.

“Today’s numbers lay bare the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the economy and employment,” Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said.

“More than 400,000 jobs have been lost and a quarter of the labour force is now unemployed. It also shows the disparity and unfairness of the virus with job losses heavily and disproportionately affecting the private sector and sectors like retail, hospitality, tourism and entertainment, especially,” he said.

“Maintaining social solidarity must be paramount and for this reason Government has decided to extend all financial supports for business and workers through to June 30th,” he said.