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Covid-19 hits labour force towards end of first quarter – CSO

The Central Statistics Office’s latest Labour Force Survey shows that a total of 2,353,500 people were employed in the first quarter of 2020.

This gives an associated employment rate of 69.8% for those aged between 15 and 64 years, the CSO added.

But when the effects of the coronavirus are taken into account, the Covid-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment is estimated to stand at 2,070,371 at the end of March with an associated Covid-19 adjusted employment rate of 61.1%

By the end of April, this figure is estimated to have fallen to 1,751,393 with an associated employment rate of 51.4%.

The CSO said the effects of Covid-19 on the labour market are not fully reflected in today’s Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2020. 

This is partially due to the timing of the Covid-19 restrictions which only saw the closure of some sectors for the last two weeks out of the 13 weeks in the quarter, while the full list of the closures was announced on March 27.

The CSO said it is obliged to follow standard definitions and methodology when calculating the official estimates from the Labour Force Survey and so it decided to compile the first quarter estimates in the usual way and provide separate Covid-19 adjusted estimates. 

“This approach preserves the methodology of the LFS while at the same time providing transparency around the current impact of Covid-19 on the labour market here,” the CSO added. 

The Labour Force Survey is the official source of labour market statistics for Ireland, including the official rates of employment and unemployment.

The CSO said that using the standard methodology, the total number of people in the labour force in the first quarter of 2020 increased by 2.1%, or 51,600, to 2,467,900 from the same time last year. 

The number of people not in the labour force stood at 1,490,500, up 0.7% or 10,300 from a year earlier.

The CSO said today that by the end of March, the Covid-19 adjusted measure of unemployment is estimated to have been 382,311 with a Covid-19 adjusted unemployment rate of 15.5%.

But by the end of April, the Covid-19 adjusted measure of unemployment is estimated to have jumped to 694,683 with an associated Covid-19 adjusted jobless rate of 28.2%.

Commenting on today’s CSO figures, the Minister for Finance and for Public Expenditure and Reform said it is clear that the extraordinarily difficult but absolutely necessary measures being taken to save lives and protect public health have had a profound impact on economies and societies all over the world. 

“Ireland is no exception and our labour market is bearing the brunt,” Paschal Donohoe said in a statement.

The Minister said it is clear that conditions deteriorated further in the second quarter.  

“Thereafter, the situation in the labour market should gradually improve, in line with the recently published Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, with unemployment steadily falling,” he said. 

“My Department is projecting the unemployment rate to approach 10% by the end of the year, with an average unemployment rate of around 14% across the year as a whole,” Mr Donohoe added.

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