Unemployment soars to 21% on foot of tougher Covid restrictions

Latest figures for November put the youth jobless rate at 47 per cent

The State’s jobless rate jumped to 21 per cent in November as a result of tougher restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which include those in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), indicate that as many as half a million people (525,015) may have been out of work last month.

This was up from 20 per cent in October but seven percentage points lower than the record 28 per cent recorded in April at the height of the first lockdown.

The increase reflects the impact of Level 5 restrictions, introduced on October 22nd, which forced all non-essential retailers to close. These have since been eased back to Level 3.


The latest figures point to a youth unemployment rate of 47.3 per cent.


"The Covid-19 crisis has continued to have a significant impact on the labour market in Ireland in November," the CSO's Catalina Gonzalez said.

She said while the standard measure of unemployment was 7.5 per cent, up from 7.2 per cent in October, the Covid-adjusted measure indicates a rate as high as 21 per cent if all claimants of the PUP are included.

“The unemployment figures continue to make for grim reading and are an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of the ‘stop-go’ economy that lowering and raising restriction levels has brought us to,” Andrew Webb of Grant Thornton said.

“ As the end of the year approaches, hope is emerging via news of vaccine approvals which, if implemented swiftly and effectively, could see a return to normality early in the new year,” he said.

“While news of a vaccine brings hope on the Covid front, the lack of a deal between the EU and UK raises increasing despair at the prospect of a particularly difficult adjustment to trading conditions at the start of the year. How these two issues play out over the coming months will determine where the economy goes next,” Mr Webb said.

The euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 8.4 per cent in October, down from 8.5 per cent in September.

But this was under the standard measure of unemployment and compares to the Republic’s 7.5 per cent.

Jack Kennedy from recruitment website Indeed said the figures were not unexpected given recent lockdown measures, but were worrying nonetheless.

“Return to level three restrictions this month may not provide much immediate relief to help the unemployment rate, particularly if followed by another lockdown in January,” he said.

“ November was an incredibly tough month for many of those who rely on picking up seasonal work. With many retail groups in distress, it may mean a longer recovery for this sector,” he said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times