COVID-19 and Unemployment Figures


On April 1st, 2020 the Central Statistics Office (CSO) published an Information Note on how they would deal with the statistical challenges COVID-19 pandemic had thrown up for them in terms of producing the Monthly Unemployment (MU) figures and the Live Register. On April 2nd, the CSO published the Live Register figures for March 2020. These were the first set of figures to be published since the measures were put in place to slow the spread and negative impact on people’s health and well-being of COVID-19.

Live Register

In the Live Register release the Central Statistics Office reported on:

-        The Live Register Total;

-        The Seasonally adjusted Live Register Total;

-        Number of claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment;

-        Number of claimants on the Revenue Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS);

-        Total of the Live Register plus claimants of the two foregoing COVID-19 related payments.

The CSO’s Table A2 does not include the seasonally adjusted Live Register total for March, which stood at 207,200, an increase for 24,400 on February, 2020.  The last time this figure was 200,000 or higher was in January, 2019.


Table A2 Number of persons on the Live Register and number in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment1, and the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme1, March 2020


Live Register

Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme

Live Register and COVID-19 Related Payments Total






-   Under 25 years of age





-   25 years of age and over















-   Under 25 years of age





-   25 years of age and over










All Persons





-   Under 25 years of age





-   25 years of age and over










Source: Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Revenue Commissioners

1 Not included in the Live Register





Looking at these figures from a gender and age perspective, it is interesting to note that there were 21,327 more men than women on the Live Register in March, but there were 11,175 more women on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). While 13% of people on the Live Register were aged under 25, this figure rises to 25% on PUP. 

This pandemic is throwing up a range of challenges including what will happen when the health crisis is deemed as over or no longer requiring the lockdown measures currently in place. If the economy is slower to recover than many people are hoping for, a lot of people will be seeking to move from a Pandemic Unemployment Payment to a regular Jobseeker’s payment. And depending on the person’s circumstances they may find that they are not even entitled to the full main claim, which is €203, they may in fact be entitled to less. This will come as a great shock to people. The INOU has long highlighted the inadequacy of existing Jobseekers’ payments and the struggle people face in trying to manage on them.

Monthly Unemployment figures

On April 9th, 2020 the Central Statistics Office (CSO) published the Monthly Unemployment figures for March 2020 with and without the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market. So, without the COVID-19 adjustment, the numbers of people recorded as being unemployed in March was 136,600, an annual increase of 16,300. The Monthly Unemployment Rate (MUR) stood at 5.4%, an annual increase of 0.4%. These seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment figures are similar to the figures last seen at the end of 2018.

One of the reasons the CSO are presenting these figures with and without the impact of COVID-19 is how unemployment is measured. An International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition is used which allows figures to be compared across time and countries. Basically, to be counted as unemployed a person has to be actively seeking work over the previous four weeks, and be available to take up work over the coming two weeks.

The scale and speed at which Ireland’s labour market has been turned on its head is unprecedented. The measures rolled-out to help people who have lost their jobs were introduced on an assumption that the labour market impact would be short lived. Unfortunately, this may not prove to be so, and the longer the economy remains in lockdown the slower will be the recovery.

It is not yet possible to ascertain how many people on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) would meet the ILO definition of unemployment.  In their release the Central Statistics Office present figures as if everyone on PUP would, which captures, as much as possible, the full extent of the negative impact of this health crisis on the labour market. Table A1 on the CSO website provides a comparative overview and is available at  

This Table shows that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate goes from 5.2% to 16.5% in this scenario. The impact on the female unemployment rate is greater, with it rising from 5.2% to 17.8%, while the male unemployment rate increases from 5.3% to 15.4%.

Looking at these figures from an age perspective, the Monthly Unemployment Rate for people aged 15-24 years increases from 12.3% to 34%, while the unemployment rate for people aged 25-74 increases from 4.2% to 14.1%.

Clearly, Ireland’s Public Employment Service will have a lot of work to do when the country finally makes it out the far side of this health crisis. When employment starts to return it will be important to support not only those who have lost their jobs in this pandemic, but also people who were unemployed and distanced from the labour market. It will be important that strong efforts are made to address existing and emerging barriers for people to access decent employment. There will be challenges facing employment and related services, many of whom are on hold at present, they will have existing work to catch up on and a new and potentially large group of people to engage with and support.

DEASP Figures

On April 20th the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) announced that 584,000 people would receive a Pandemic Unemployment Payment on April 21st, that there were 212,000 people on the Live Register, and that over 46,000 employers had registered with the Revenue Commissioners for the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy scheme. 

On the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, 252,000 recipients are women and 332,000 are men. Three sectors account for almost half of these payments: accommodation and food service activities at 21.6%; wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles account at 15.1%; and construction at 13.2%.