Numbers at work increased over the summer as restrictions lifted

Latest CSO Labour Force Survey shows employment increased across all sectors

The number of people in employment gradually increased over the summer months as public health measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic were unwound, the latest results from the Central Statistics Office (CSO)'s Labour Force Survey show.

The phased reopening of Ireland’s society and economy over the summer included the reopening of hotels followed by outdoor service at restaurants and pubs in June. Cinemas and gyms were also reopened that month.

Indoor pub and restaurant service resumed in July, along with international travel. The Cabinet also approved plans to allow spectators to attend a number of sports events and music gigs in June and July on a trial basis.

There were further increase in the number of people allowed to attend both indoor and outdoor events during the month of August.


The CSO report for the second quarter of 2021 shows that, overall, the employment rate for those aged 15-89 was up 9.9 per cent, or 211,000, to 2,349,100 in the year.

Employment increased across all sectors with the largest rates of increase in the education (19.9 per cent or 35,300) sector and in the “other service activities sector” which includes arts and culture activities (15.2 per cent or 12,900).

The employment rate for those aged 15-64 years was 68.6 per cent in the second quarter of the year.

CSO statistician Jim Dalton said the Covid-19 pandemic "is continuing to have a considerable impact on the Irish labour market and that impact was first felt at the end of the first quarter of 2020".

Because conditions in the economy were vastly different during the second quarters of 2020 and 2021 due to the lockdown in 2020, the CSO decided to compile the estimates in the usual way but also to provide separate Covid-19 adjusted estimates.

When the effects of Covid-19 are considered, the number of people aged 15-89 years in employment is estimated to have been 2,120,778 at the end of June with an associated Covid-19 adjusted employment rate of 61.7 per cent for those aged 15-64 years.

By the end of July, these are estimated to have stood at 2,185,773 and 63.7 per cent respectively while by the end of August, they are estimated to have stood at 2,205,494 and 64.3 per cent respectively.

Using the standard criteria, the unadjusted number of people aged 15-74 years who were unemployed in the second quarter stood at 184,100 with an associated unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent.

The Covid-19 adjusted unemployment volumes and rates for the end of June corresponded to 413,687 people and 16.2 per cent respectively for people aged 15-74 years.

By the end of July, these are estimated to have stood at 356,648 and 13.5 per cent respectively, while by the end of August they are estimated to have stood at 335,178 and 12.4 per cent respectively.

Using the standard methodology, the total number of people in the labour force was up 12.1 per cent, or 274,000, to 2,533,200 year-on-year.

The number of people not in the labour force was 1,482,700, which was down 13.5 per cent or 231,900 from a year earlier.

Minister for Employment Leo Varadkar said the figures “show thousands of people were able to return to work quickly in quarter two of this year, as public health restrictions started to ease and our vaccination programme picked up”.

“It is encouraging that we are seeing the momentum of workers returning to their jobs maintained over summer, as demonstrated by the continuing decline in the unemployment rate, which stood at 12.4 percent in August.

“That is still unacceptably high but I am hopeful that the further reopening over the past couple of months will have brought this down significantly.”

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the figures were “reflective of the traction gained in our labour market since the phased re-opening of our economy and society at the start of April and the improved outlook seen over the summer months”.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter