Construction workers recorded the highest levels of pandemic support payment cancellations this week as the sector geared up for a gradual return to activity.
On Monday, the Department of Social Protection said just over 1,500 people in construction had closed their Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) claims while the overall number of recipients fell by 15,776 compared to last week.
This week, the cost of the scheme administered to 421,373 people was €125.5 million but all sectors now have fewer people receiving the money, a reflection of increasing numbers returning to work.
The construction sector saw its recipients decrease from 52,723 last week to 50,169 this week.
Over the last seven days, 7,327 people closed their PUP claims, with 5,966 of them stating they were returning to work.
Dublin is the county with the highest number of current recipients at 134,417, followed by Cork (42,391) and Galway (22,774).
Outside those main population sectors, there were also high numbers recorded in Kildare (18,663), Meath (18,041), and Kerry (16,502).
"With sectors such as construction and our schools re-opening, it is vital that we take a cautious approach until a substantial level of our population has been vaccinated, at which point we will move to reopen our society more widely," said Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.
“I appreciate that the restrictions currently have a huge impact on the social and economic wellbeing of our communities. However, the vaccination programme will give us a pathway to a return to economic and social activity.”
The sector with the highest number of people receiving PUP this week is accommodation and food service (now at 102,405), followed by the wholesale and retail trades (67,990) and construction (50,169).
However, accommodation and food service activities have registered 3,753 fewer recipients this week.
The wholesale and retail sector has seen the number of PUP recipients decrease from 70,083 last week to 67,990 this week.
According to the Department, 48 per cent of those in receipt of PUP are receiving the maximum rate of €350 this week.
The sectors with the largest number of employees closing their PUP claims to return to work are construction (1,501), wholesale and retail trade (970), and then accommodation and food services (723).
Some 654 people closed their claims to return to work in the manufacturing sector while 119 did so in the education.
Meanwhile, Ms Humphreys warned members of the public about scam phone calls they may receive from individuals purporting to be an official of the Department.
“It’s important to stress that Department of Social Protection staff will never ask you for your Personal Public Services number (PPSN) or bank details if they should have reason to call you over the phone,” she said.
Monday’s data also showed there were 2,078 people in receipt of an enhanced illness benefit payment, up from 2,061 last week.