Unemployment shot from near record low to record high in a month

Latest CSO Labour Force Survey shows impact of coronavirus crisis on workforce

By the end of April, this adjusted measure of unemployment is estimated to have jumped to 694,683 with an associated Covid-19 adjusted jobless rate of 28.2 per cent.

By the end of April, this adjusted measure of unemployment is estimated to have jumped to 694,683 with an associated Covid-19 adjusted jobless rate of 28.2 per cent.


The Republic’s unemployment rate jumped from a near record low of just 4.7 per cent to a record high of 28.2 per cent in the space of a month as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show.

The CSO’s latest Labour Force Survey gives a snapshot of the Irish labour market prior to the full impact of coronavirus.

It shows that there were 2.35 million people employed in the first quarter of 2020, corresponding to an employment rate of nearly 70 per cent for people aged between 15 and 64 years.

This was the highest level of employment ever recorded in the State.

At the time, there were just 114,400 people classified as unemployed, corresponding to an unemployment rate of 4.7 per cent.

However, by the end of March, the employment metrics had been sent into reverse as the Government imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus.

The CSO said the Covid-19 adjusted measure of unemployment rose to 382,311, giving rise to an associated unemployment rate of 15.5 per cent.

By the end of April, the figure had jumped to 694,683 with an associated jobless rate of 28.2 per cent. The figures do not include workers furloughed under the Government’s temporary wage subsidy scheme.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe confirmed on Wednesday that, as of the end of last week, more than 1.2 million workers in the State were in receipt of some form of income support.

About 460,000 people were in receipt of income support from their employer through the temporary wage subsidy scheme, with just under 590,000 recipients of the pandemic unemployment payment. A further 215,000 were on the live register.

Negative effects

Commenting on the figures, Mr Donohoe said: “Today’s figures confirm that Ireland’s labour market began to feel the negative effects of Covid-19 towards the end of the first quarter of this year.

“It is clear that the extraordinarily difficult but absolutely necessary measures being taken to save lives and protect public health have had a profound impact on economies and societies all over the world. Ireland is no exception and our labour market is bearing the brunt.”

He added: “At this point in time, it is clear that conditions deteriorated further in the second quarter. Thereafter, the situation in the labour market should gradually improve, in line with the recently published Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, with unemployment steadily falling.”

He said his department was projecting the unemployment rate to approach 10 per cent by the end of the year, with an average unemployment rate of about 14 per cent across the year as a whole.

CSO statistician Jim Dalton said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the Irish labour market and that impact started towards the end of quarter one, 2020.

“As the CSO is obliged to follow standard definitions and methodology when calculating the official estimates from the Labour Force Survey, it has been decided to compile the quarter one, 2020, estimates in the usual way and provide separate Covid-19 adjusted estimates.

“ This approach preserves the methodology of the Labour Force Survey while at the same time providing transparency around the current impact of Covid-19 on the labour market within Ireland.”