Today’s Labour Force Survey figures confirm that the crisis in youth unemployment is worsening.
The number of people aged 15-24 in employment fell from 264,000 at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019, to 226,600 at the end of 2020 – a decrease of over 14%.
CSO statistician Jim Dalton said this was probably due to younger people being employed in the sectors worst hit by the pandemic, including Food and Accommodation, Retail, and Other activities including recreation.
He noted that some people currently on the Pandemic Payment were not categorised as unemployed under formal ILO criteria – and that the real extent of the employment crisis may not emerge until vaccination is complete, the economy opens up and it becomes clear which sectors are still viable.
The Labour Force Survey research also confirms the growing trend towards working from home.
In the four weeks before the pandemic struck a year ago, just under four fifths of those in employment (78.6%) indicated that their main place of work was the “employers or own premises”.
However, by the fourth quarter of 2020, that figure had fallen to just over half (55.3%)
Again, in the four weeks before the pandemic, just one in 20 people in employment (4.8%) reported that their main place of work was home.
By the end of last year, that figure had soared to over a quarter (27.7%).
In the same four week pre-pandemic period last year, people working from home indicated that they carried out 41% of their work remotely – but by the end of the fourth quarter of last year, that figure had almost doubled to 74.3%.
The CSO’s Labour Force Survey is the official source of labour market statistics for Ireland and includes the official rates of employment and unemployment.
The CSO noted that “absences from work” jumped by 70.5% to 324,900 in the fourth quarter compared to the same time in 2019 due to the fall out of Covid-19.
This resulted in a fall of 8.5% or 6.6 million in the number of hours worked per week over the year to 70.8 million hours.
It said the impact on hours worked varied across the different economic sectors.
The number of hours worked in several sectors such as Public Administration & Defence and Information & Communications were near 2019 levels.
But absences as a share of employment were highest in other sectors such as Accommodation & Food Services, Other Activities (recreation and culture) and Transport & Storage and the hours worked in these sectors was significantly lower in Q4 2020 than the levels from a year earlier.
There are still many people who have lost their jobs as a result of the Covid pandemic who do not meet the International Labour Organisation definition of unemployed.
This is evident in the difference between the LFS unemployment rate and the CSO’s COVID-adjusted rate, which counts all recipients of the PUP as unemployed and stood at 19.4% in December before rising again to 25% by the end of January 2021.
The CSO said that while 2.3 million people were officially employed in the fourth quarter, when adjusted for PUP recipients the figure would have stood at 1.97 million (some 390,000 lower) at the end of December and 1.83 million in January.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said that today’s numbers lay bare the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the economy and employment.
Mr Varadkar said that more than 400,000 jobs have been lost and a quarter of the labour force is now unemployed.
He said the figures also show the disparity and unfairness of the virus with job losses heavily and disproportionately affecting the private sector and sectors like retail, hospitality, tourism and entertainment especially.
Mr Varadkar said that maintaining social solidarity must be paramount and for this reason Government has decided to extend all financial supports for business and workers up to June 30.
“When it is safe to re-open our economy ,we should do so, but not before,” the Minister said.
“In doing so, we will need to ensure that we put in place a National Economic Plan to enable a return to full employment no later than 2023. It must focus on helping businesses and individuals worst affected to get back on their feet; to get businesses back open, people back to work or education and ensure that post-pandemic we have more security for everyone,” he added.
The Finance Minister said the latest Level 5 public health restrictions have had a significant and rapid impact on the labour market with numbers of claimants for the PUP rising to peak of 481,000 at the start of February, with more than 1 million persons combined in receipt of income support from the State in the form of the PUP, the EWSS and the Live Register.
“However, I am encouraged by the fact that, the rise in the number of people relying on the PUP has stayed well below the peak of 600,000 from early May last year, and has fallen in recent weeks to now stand at 473,000,” Paschal Donohoe said.
“Moreover we are now in a position to start reopening our schools on a phased basis. If we continue our diligent efforts, as we have done to date in reducing the spread of the virus for a third time, many people will return to work once Level 5 restrictions are lifted,” he added.