Unemployment rate jumps to record 28.2% as lockdown bites

CSO figures show massive jump in jobless rate on foot of coronavirus shutdown

Shops shuttered on Dublin’s Grafton Street. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

Shops shuttered on Dublin’s Grafton Street. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

 

The Republic’s unemployment rate jumped to a record 28.2 per cent in April on foot of the coronavirus containment measures. This equates to over a third of the Irish workforce and is almost double the rate recorded after the financial crisis.

The CSO’s latest unemployment data, meanwhile, showed there were 819,007 people effectively classified as unemployed in April, up from just under 420,000 in March.

The total, however, includes those claiming the Government’s temporary pandemic unemployment benefit, which amounted to 602,107 at the end of April.

Many of these people are likely to return to work once the social distancing restrictions are lifted.

Nonetheless, the figures break all records. They show the adjusted unemployment rate for those aged 15-24 years – effectively the youth rate – is now as high as 53 per cent.

The figures also do not include an additional 425,204 workers, who are availing of the Government wage subsidy scheme.

Leaving aside those on the special pandemic payment, the standard measure of unemployment for April was 5.4 per cent, equating to 132,900 people.

The Government’s two pandemic assistance schemes are expected to cost up to €5 billion over 12 weeks.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will continue beyond its original end date, which is mid-June, but that the level of the payment may change.

The PUP provides €350 a week to someone who has lost their job as a result of Covid-19 while the Temporary Wage Subsidy scheme subsidises the wages of workers who cannot work because of the crisis, up to 85 per cent in some cases.

Mr Donohoe said this week that both schemes would continue beyond the planned expiry date “in some form”.

Commenting on the latest unemployment statistics, Jack Kennedy, economist with recruitment website Indeed, said: “Coronavirus has already undone years of labour market growth in the space of a few weeks.

“Without a clear end in sight, this is worrying both on a macro and micro economic level. With many of the sectors worst affected by the current crisis, such as hospitality and food service, not slated to open until the later stages of the Government roadmap, it may be some time before we start to see the green shoots of recovery,” he said.