Weekly earnings rose in first quarter of 2020 before Covid crisis

Impact of pandemic not seen in CSO data as shutdown occurred in final fortnight

Average weekly earnings increased almost 4 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, new data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed, while average hourly earnings rose 3.2 per cent.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has yet to be seen on the figures, with the shutdown to help slow the spread of the virus happening in the final fortnight of the reporting period. But the measures may also have impacted on collection of the preliminary data, thus affecting the figures.

The figures showed average weekly earnings were €801.83 in the first quarter of the year, up 3.9 per cent compared with the same period in 2019. Average hourly earnings were €24.81, up from €24.05 in the first quarter of 2019, with the average weekly paid hours up 0.6 per cent to 32.3 hours. Job vacancy rates, meanwhile, fell to 0.7 per cent from 1 per cent a year earlier.

"Government measures put in place in response to Covid-19 only related to weeks 11 to 13 of Q1 2020. The impact of the pandemic on earnings and labour costs results for Q1 2020 is minimal as a result, as most sectors were unaffected for 11 weeks of the quarter, with some sectors unaffected for the entirety of the quarter," explained Louise Egan, statistician with the CSO.


Average hours

The CSO’s earnings and labour costs quarterly release calculates average hours and earnings by dividing the total hours and total earnings respectively for the entire quarter by the average employment across the entire quarter.

However, although there was a minimal impact on the numbers due to Covid-19, the pandemic restrictions affected companies’ ability to supply the requested data to the CSO.

“Despite the extension of the data collection period by two weeks, the response rate for the preliminary estimates for Q1 2020 has been negatively impacted due to the inability of some businesses to access the data required to respond to the survey questionnaire, submit returns or respond to reminders and queries due to Covid-19,” Ms Egan said. “The sectors particularly impacted by low rates of survey response were construction, accommodation and food services, and transportation and storage.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist