The number of people receiving the special pandemic unemployment payment has risen above the 350,000 mark once again, new figures released by the Department of Social Protection show.
The number of people claiming the payment increased by just over 2,000 over the last week to 352,078.
The Department of Social Protection said that since it was introduced last March more than €4.3 billion has been paid out in pandemic unemployment payments under the scheme. Payments worth about €104 million were sent out to claimants this week.
The Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, said on Monday that the number of people receiving the pandemic unemployment payment had increased by over 145,000 since the beginning of October when new Covid-19 restrictions were introduced by the Government.
However, while the number receiving the payment has now increased above 350,000, the figure is still considerably lower than at its peak in late April and early May when nearly 600,000 people were claiming the benefit.
Ms Humphreys said: “These past few weeks have not been easy. I know people are tired and just want life to get back to some normality.
“Later this week Government hopes to be in a position to consider easing restrictions from early December, which will hopefully allow some people to return to work.
“In the meantime as a society we must do everything within our power to continue to suppress this virus and to significantly reduce the rate of transmission. By working together now and in the weeks ahead we can all play our part in ensuring that families across the country will be able to come together and celebrate this Christmas in a meaningful way.”
The 352,000 people receiving the pandemic unemployment payment are in addition to the 203,172 people who were reported on the Live Register as of the end of October.
The Department of Social Protection said the sector with the highest number of people in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment this week was accommodation and food service activities with 102,777 claiming the payment, followed by wholesale and retail trade (57,292) and other areas such as hairdressers and beauty salons (31,273).