Originally, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) were due to release the Monthly Unemployment figures for March 2020 on March 31st, but given the employment / unemployment impact of Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis they are only releasing them today, April 9th, 2020.
As with the Live Register figures released on Tuesday 7th, the CSO are presenting these figures with and without the COVID-19 impact. And so without the COVID-19 adjustment, the numbers of people recorded as being unemployed in March 2020 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 astonishing. 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.
And so 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 https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/mue/monthlyunemploymentmarch2020/
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 to 17.8% from 5.2%, 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.