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Labour Force Survey, Quarter 4 2020

25 February 2021 - 14:15 pm


On February 25th the Central Statistics Office (CSO) published the Labour Force Survey (LFS) for the fourth quarter of 2020, which covers the months October to December. This release includes information using the International Labour Organisation standard methodology, alongside estimated figures taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Irish labour market.

So, using the standard LFS methodology, 2,306,200 people were employed in this quarter: 55,000 fewer people than in the last quarter of 2019. Full-time employment rose slightly over the year to 1,871,200 people. But part-time employment fell by 12% to 434,900: 73% of this drop happening because women’s part-time employment decreased by 42,800.

Over the year the labour force decreased by 26,600 to 2,445,100. Two factors influence changes in the Labour Force, the demographic effect, which was positive (+22,200); and the participatory effect, which was negative (-48,900). The participation rate fell by 1.4 at 61.3%, reflecting the very challenging year Ireland’s labour market has experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Q4 2020, 138,900 people were unemployed: 28,300 more people than in Q4 2019. The unemployment rate was 5.7%, an increase of 1.2 over the year. The number of people deemed long-term unemployed was 36,800 and the long-term unemployment rate was 1.5%. In Q4 2019 these figures were 38,700 and 1.6% respectively.  

The Principal Economic Status (PES) captures data on how people described themselves, for example whether they are at work or unemployed or a student or on home duties. In Q4 2020, 249,600 people described themselves as unemployed: an increase of 96,800 on the same quarter last year. 

Another statistic the INOU believes is useful to look at is the Potential Additional Labour Force (PALF).  In Q4 2020 PALF stood at 162,500: 63,800 more people than a year ago. This figure captures people who are deemed as ‘inactive’ but who may well view themselves as unemployed.

Impact of COVID-19

When the impact of COVID-19 is factored in, the numbers of people employed drops to 1,970,609 at the end of the quarter. While the numbers of people unemployed increases to 468,655 with an unemployment rate of 19.4%.

In this Labour Force Survey, the CSO also published a COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment for the end of January 2021, and employment is estimated to have fallen again to 1,826,567 people. While the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment is estimated to have increased to 607,190, with an increased unemployment rate of 25%.

On February 25th the CSO also published Labour Market Insight Series 5, a supplementary analysis to this Labour Force Survey. Amongst the key findings they note:

  • Those in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in Q4 2020 were more than twice as likely to self-classify themselves as Unemployed using Principal Economic Status (PES) at 25.7% as to be officially classified as Unemployed (11.5%).
  • In Q4 2020, approximately one in five (21.0%) of all those aged 15-64 years who reported having lost employment or been laid off due to COVID-19 indicated that they did not expect to return to the same job.
  • Nearly half (45.7%) of all those aged 15-64 years who reported having lost employment or been laid off due to COVID-19 indicated that they had already returned to the same job compared to one in seven (14.3%) of those who were receiving the PUP and just over a half (51.6%) of those who were benefitting from the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

If you wish to read more of this analysis please follow this link