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Labour Market Insight Bulletin

Series 5

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Supplementary Labour Market Analysis Q4 2020

Key Findings

  • The number of ‘Actual Hours’ worked per week fell by 6.6 million hours per week or 8.5% to 70.8 million over the year to Q4 2020
  • The number of employed persons who were classed as ‘Away from Work’ increased by 70.5% over the year to Q4 2020, despite the Labour Force Survey (LFS) recording a fall of 2.3% in employment over the same period
  • The number of persons ‘Away from Work’ as a percentage of the numbers employed in Q4 2020 was 14.1% compared to just 8.1% observed in Q4 2019 and 13.0% in Q3 2020
  • When averaged over the four quarters, employment fell by 1.2% to 2,294,300 in 2020 when compared with 2019. However, the number of persons who were ‘Away from Work’ in the reference week virtually doubled to almost 348,000 over the same period leading to a reduction of 9.6% to 70.0 million in the number of ‘Actual Hours’ worked per week in 2020
  • The public health restrictions associated with COVID-19 continued to have a considerable impact on some economic sectors in Q4 2020 with the largest share of persons employed who were ‘Away from Work’ being in the Accommodation & Food Services sector (39.3%) which is up from 7.0% in Q4 2019 and from 22.3% in Q3 2020
  • 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)
  • Nearly eight out of ten persons in employment (78.6%) reported that their main place of work was the ‘Employers’ or own premises’ in the four weeks prior to COVID-19 compared to just over a half (55.3%) in Q4 2020
  • Just under one in 20 (4.8%) of persons in employment reported that their main place of work was Home in the four weeks prior to COVID-19 compared to more than one in four (27.7%) in Q4 2020
  • On average, persons working from home carried out 41.0% of their work remotely from home in the four weeks prior to COVID-19 and this increased to 74.3% in Q4 2020

Introduction

This bulletin is the fifth in a series of outputs designed to provide high-level supplementary labour market analysis to users alongside the standard labour market outputs and metrics. The data used is sourced from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and administrative datasets. This bulletin is specifically designed to give some context to the standard LFS results for Quarter 4 (Q4) 2020.

The LFS, which is being published today (25 February 2021) for Q4 2020, is the official source of employment and unemployment estimates for Ireland (see Labour Force Survey (LFS) Quarter 4 2020). The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is obliged to follow specific methodology for the LFS including how a person is classified as employed, unemployed or economically inactive (not in the labour force) using the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concepts and definitions. The ILO criteria do not fully capture the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market – see Information Note on the implications of COVID-19 on the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The Information Note highlights the challenges in the application of the ILO concepts following the introduction of the COVID-19 income support payments.

To give context to the LFS results for Q4 2020, this bulletin presents analysis of how absences from employment and the total number of actual hours worked per week have changed in the year to Q4 2020 along with breakdowns of each by economic sector. These results are presented in Tables 1-3 and Figures 1-3 below.

The CSO publishes detailed weekly data on the COVID-19 income support schemes – see Tables LRW01 to LRW12 at the following link: PxStat . The analyses presented in this bulletin have matched recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) which replaced the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) since the start of September 2020 to respondents of the LFS to gain additional insight into the official and self-reported labour market status of individuals in receipt of these income support schemes. These results are presented in Table 4 and Figure 4 below.

Like Q3 2020, the CSO added a series of questions to the LFS Questionnaire for Q4 2020 to try to capture some relevant information from respondents on the effects of COVID-19 on their labour market situation that would not have been captured in the standard LFS questionnaire. In Q4 2020, LFS respondents were asked in what way COVID-19 has affected their employment situation. They were then asked a series of questions in relation to expectations of returning to the same job after restrictions have been lifted, their main place of work prior to COVID-19 and at the time of interview in Q4 2020 as well as the share of work carried out at home prior to COVID-19 and at the time of interview. Some results from analysis of these questions are presented in Tables 5-6 and Figures 5-6 below.

Finally, Table 7 presents annual estimates of key labour market indicators for the years 2018 to 2020.

Absences from work and actual hours worked per week in the LFS

In the LFS, a person can still be classified as Employed even if ‘Away from Work’ due to a temporary lay-off when interviewed using the ILO criteria provided they expect to return to the job within three months and/or continue to be paid at least half their wage or salary by their employer. All other absences such as holidays and family leave are deemed to still contain an attachment to the job and are thus classified as Employed.

Those who are classified as Employed on the ILO basis and who worked during the reference week are asked for the number of hours they worked that week ‘Actual Hours’. The estimate of the total number of ‘Actual Hours’ worked per week in each quarter is calculated by adding together the number of ‘Actual Hours’ worked in the reference week for all persons in employment.

Show Table: Table 1 Number of persons 15 years and over in employment (ILO), number of persons 'Away from work' and Actual Hours worked per week (in millions), LFS Q3 2019 to Q4 2020

Table 1 above presents the numbers in employment, the numbers ‘Away from Work’ and the ‘Actual Hours’ worked per week in Q3 2019, Q4 2019, Q3 2020 and Q4 2020. The annual changes and annual percentage changes to Q3 2020 and Q4 2020 are also presented. While the numbers in employment on the ILO basis, which stood at 2,306,200 in Q4 2020, was down 55,000 or 2.3% over the year since Q4 2019, the number of employed persons who were ‘Away from Work’ was up 134,400 or 70.5% over the year. As a result, the number of ‘Actual Hours’ worked was down 6.6 million hours per week or -8.5% over the year; having stood at 77.4 million hours per week in Q4 2019, it fell to 70.8 million hours per week in Q4 2020.

Actual Hours worked per week
Q3 201976.9
Q4 201977.4
Q3 202072.7
Q4 202070.8

Table 2 below presents the number of persons ‘Away from Work’ during the reference week as a percentage of the numbers employed by economic sector for Quarters 3 and 4 of 2019 and 2020. The overall percentage of all persons in employment who were ‘Away from Work’ in the reference week in Quarter 3 of any year would be expected to be higher given that it covers most of the summer holiday period. This is reflected in the table where the absence rate in Q4 2019 (8.1%) was lower than in Q3 2019 (9.5%). However, when one looks at the breakdown by economic sector, a slightly different picture emerges: The absence rate in Q3 2019 is higher for just five of the 14 economic sectors. Among these, the Education sector showed the highest difference in absence rates accounting for 34.8% of employment in this sector in Q3 2019 compared to 14.4% in Q4 2019. This level of difference in the Education sector would be expected as a large part of Q3 coincides with summer holidays for primary and post-primary teachers.

Show Table: Table 2 Absences from work during the reference week as a percentage of the numbers employed by Economic Sector, LFS Q3 2019 to Q4 2020

The trends in 2019 indicate that there is seasonality to the share of persons in employment being ‘Away from Work’ by economic sector. Comparing the same quarter from 2019 and 2020 allows us to see the non-seasonal changes in absence rates from employment by economic sector and to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the rates for 2020. Table 2 above shows that the overall absence rate stood at 9.5% in Q3 2019 and this increased to 13.0% in Q3 2020. Even though Q3 2020 coincided with the easing of Public Health Restrictions, the impact of COVID-19 is still very apparent in a number of sectors for that quarter when compared with a year earlier. The sectors with the most notable impact are Accommodation & Food Services activities where the absence rate was 22.3% compared to just 5.8% in Q3 2019 and the Transportation & Storage sector which increased from 9.2% to 20.5% over the same period. On the other hand, the absence rate in sectors such as Public Administration & Defence and Financial Insurance & Real Estate activities displayed normal seasonal patterns and were less likely to show any impacts from COVID-19.

In Q4, 2020, the overall absence rate was 14.1% compared to 8.1% for the same quarter in 2019 and the higher rate of absence was reflected in all sectors. The impact of the increased public health restrictions between Q3 and Q4 2020 is also evident at sectoral level. The sectors that were likely to be most affected show the highest absence rates in Q4 2020. The absence rate in the Accommodation & Food Services activities sector was 39.3% in Q4 2020 compared to just 7.0% in Q4 2019 and 22.3% in Q3 2020. The Other Activities sector, which includes recreation and cultural activities, also showed considerable adverse effects from COVID-19. The rate of absence was 30.1% in Q4 2020 compared to just 13.6% in Q3 2020 and 7.8% in Q4 2019.

Q4 2019Q4 2020
Agriculture, forestry and fishing2.621722846441954.41729323308271
Industry7.614390499476078.95372233400403
Construction8.0217539089055113.1964809384164
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles6.3829787234042613.6665612148054
Transportation and storage 6.0185185185185216.8831168831169
Accommodation and food service activities6.9754464285714339.2937640871525
Information and communication8.072100313479629.18220946915352
Financial, insurance and real estate activities8.2536924413553410.6827309236948
Professional, scientific and technical activities8.5046066619418911.5305422100206
Administrative and support service activities6.8688670829616412.0584652862363
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security8.632478632478639.39542483660131
Education14.405010438413415.1653944020356
Human health and social work activities9.6160380564050312.4914675767918
Other NACE activities 7.7506318449873630.1492537313433
All Sectors8.0425207521599214.0577573497528

As outlined in Table 1 above, there was a larger annual percentage change in employment in the year to Q4 2020 (-2.3%) than in the year to Q3 2020 (-1.4%). This contributed to a larger annual decrease in the number of ‘Actual Hours’ worked per week in the year to Q4 2020 (-8.5%) than to Q3 2020 (-5.5%). These combined illustrate the effects of increased public health restrictions between Q3 2020 and Q4 2020.

Show Table: Table 3 Actual hours worked per week by economic sector for persons aged 15 years and over in employment, LFS Q3 2019 to Q4 2020

Table 3 above presents the total number of ‘Actual Hours’ worked per week (in millions of hours) by economic sector from Q3 2019 to Q4 2020. The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic is evident for the sectors most likely to be affected. The number of hours worked per week in the Accommodation & Food Services sector fell from 5.2 million to 3.6 million in the year to Q3 2020 and was just 2.4 million hours in Q4 2020. The number of hours worked per week in the Administration & Support Services sector fell from 3.6 million to 2.9 million in the year to Q3 2020 and was 2.3 million hours in Q4 2020. The number of hours worked per week in the Construction sector fell from 5.7 million hours to 5.0 million hours between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020 and again decreased further to 4.8 million hours per week by Q4 2020. On the other hand, as one might expect, the number of hours worked in Q4 2020 in sectors such as Public Administration & Defence, Information & Communications and the Professional, Scientific & Technical sector showed little impact of the pandemic and were close to Q4 2019 levels.

Q4 2019Q4 2020
Agriculture, forestry and fishing4.64.7
Industry10.310.7
Construction5.54.8
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles9.59
Transportation and storage 3.73.2
Accommodation and food service activities5.12.4
Information and communication4.74.8
Financial, insurance and real estate activities4.14.1
Professional, scientific and technical activities4.94.9
Administrative and support service activities3.52.3
Public administration and defence; compulsory social security44.1
Education5.15
Human health and social work activities8.98.5
Other activities (cultural & recreational)3.32.1

ILO status and Principal Economic Status (PES) for those in receipt of COVID-19 income supports in Q4 2020

The official measures of employment and unemployment published from the LFS are based on a series of questions that objectively classify a person as Employed, Unemployed or Inactive using the ILO concepts and definitions. The Principal Economic Status (PES), on the other hand, is a subjective self-assessment by the respondent of their own economic status and the labour market status assigned to an individual from the LFS using the standard ILO methodology may not agree with their own subjective assessment of their situation. For example, a person laid off with no assurance of return to work may be perceived by many as unemployed. However, under objective ILO guidelines, unless this person is actively seeking work and available to take up employment within two weeks, (s)he is deemed to be Inactive and outside the Labour Force.

Show Table: Table 4 Percentage of persons aged 15 years and over and benefitting from the PUP or the EWSS classified by ILO status and PES, LFS Q4 2020

Table 4 above presents the percentages of all persons aged 15 years and older who were in each of the ILO and PES categories in Q4 2020. The percentage breakdowns by ILO and PES are also presented separately for those who were in receipt of the PUP and for those who benefitted from the EWSS at any time in Q4 2020.

In Q4 2020, Table 4 shows that:

  • For all three groups presented, the percentage of those who were classified as Employed on the objective (ILO) basis is higher than the number ‘At work’ using the subjective (PES) basis
  • More than half of all those aged 15 years and older were classified as Employed using both the ILO or ‘At work’ using the PES measures at 57.8% and 53.3% respectively
  • Of those in receipt of the PUP at any time in Q4 2020, 63.4% were classified as Employed on the ILO basis while 42.9% classified themselves as ‘At work’ using the PES
  • Of those in receipt of the EWSS, 87.2% were classified as Employed on the ILO basis while 77.6% self-classified themselves as ‘At work’ using the PES

Table 4 also shows that, in Q4 2020:

  • For all three groups presented, the percentage of those who were classified as Unemployed on the objective (ILO) basis is lower than the subjective (PES) basis
  • Those in receipt of the PUP at any time in Q4 2020 were more than twice as likely to self-classify themselves as Unemployed using PES (25.7%) as to be objectively classified as Unemployed on the ILO basis (11.5%)
  • The difference for all persons aged 15 years and over was of a lower order; 6.3% self-classified themselves as unemployed using PES while 3.5% were classified as unemployed on the ILO basis
  • Virtually all of those benefitting from the EWSS were officially classified as either Employed or Inactive while 2.6% were objectively classified as Unemployed on the ILO basis

Persons who are not classified as either Employed or Unemployed are deemed to be outside the Labour Force and are classified as Inactive and Table 4 shows that, in Q4 2020:

  • The proportion of all persons aged 15 years and older who were objectively (ILO) or subjectively (PES) assessed as being ‘Inactive’ were quite similar at 38.7% and 40.5% respectively
  • Those in receipt of EWSS were over one and a half times more likely to classify themselves as Inactive using PES (16.7%) compared to being classified as Inactive on the ILO basis (10.1%)
  • Those in receipt of PUP were more likely to classify themselves as Inactive using PES at 31.4%  compared to being classified as Inactive using the ILO criteria (25.1%)
EmployedUnemployedInactive
PUP recipients - ILO63.411.525.1
PUP recipients - PES42.925.731.4
EWSS recipients - ILO87.242.6410.12
EWSS recipients - PES77.555.7916.66
All persons - ILO57.83.538.7
All persons - PES53.36.340.5

Expectation of return to same job by recipient of COVID-19 income supports in Q4 2020

Table 5 below shows that of those persons aged 15-64 years who reported having lost employment or been laid off due to COVID-19 when interviewed for the LFS in Q4 2020:

  • One-third (33.3%) of all those aged 15-64 years indicated that they expected to return to the same job compared to just over a fifth (21.0%) who said they did not expect to return to the same job
  • Almost two-thirds (64.4%) of those who were in receipt of the PUP at any time in Q4 2020 indicated that they expected to return to the same job while just over a fifth (21.3%) of these persons did not expect to return to the same job
  • Just over four out of ten (41.3%) of those who were benefitting from the EWSS at any time in Q4 2020 indicated that they expected to return to the same job while just 7.1% did not expect to return to the same job
  • Just over half (51.6%) of those who were benefitting from EWSS at any time in Q4 2020 indicated that they had already returned to the same job. This compares to 45.7% of all persons aged 15-64 years and just 14.3% of those who were receiving the PUP in Q4 2020.
Show Table: Table 5 Percentage of persons aged 15-64 years whose employment was affected by COVID-19 (self-reported) by expectation of return to the same job and separately for those benefitting from the PUP or the EWSS, LFS Q4 2020

Yes, expect to return to the same jobYes, have already returned to the same jobNo
PUP recipients in Q4 202064.414.321.3
EWSS recipients in Q4 202041.351.67.1
All persons aged 15 years and over33.345.721

Main place of work and extent of working from home pre-COVID-19 and in Q4 2020

Respondents aged 15-64 years and in employment or away from work during the reference week but with a job to return to were asked where their main place of work was in the four weeks prior to COVID-19 and in the four weeks prior to being interviewed in Q4 2020. In addition, they were asked what share of their work was carried out remotely from home in the same periods. The results in Table 6 below show:

  • Nearly eight out of ten (78.6%) employed persons reported that their main place of work was the ‘Employers’ or own premises’ in the four weeks prior to COVID-19 compared to just over a half (55.3%) in Q4 2020
  • Just under one in 20 (4.8%) persons in employment reported that their main place of work was Home in the four weeks prior to COVID-19 compared to more than one in four (27.7%) in Q4 2020
  • On average, persons working from home carried out 41.0% of their work remotely from home in the four weeks prior to COVID-19 and this increased to 74.3% in Q4 2020.
Show Table: Table 6 Percentage breakdown of main place of work, share of persons who worked at home and average share of work carried out at home for persons aged 15-64 years - pre COVID-19 and Q4 2020

Employers' or own premisesHomeClient's premises or client's homeNo fixed place as usually driving or travelling
Pre Covid-1978.64.855.3
Q4 202055.327.74.54.3

The Labour Market in 2020 at a glance

Table 7 below shows annual estimates for some key labour market indicators in respect of the years 2018 to 2020 and the annual changes between 2018 and 2019, and 2019 and 2020. These estimates were compiled by taking the average of the four quarters for each year.

Show Table: Table 7 Key annual Labour Market indicators - LFS 2018 to LFS 2020

The number of employed persons who were 15 years or older was 2,294,300 in 2020 which was down by 1.2% from a year earlier. However, the number of persons ‘Away from Work’ in the reference week virtually doubled between 2019 and 2020 to nearly 348,000. This resulted in a fall of 9.6% to 70.0 million in the average number of hours worked per week in 2020.

The number of unemployed persons aged 15 to 74 years increased by 13.0% to 136,700 between 2019 and 2020 giving an unemployment rate of 5.6% in 2020. The increase in the number of persons unemployed coupled with the fall in employment led to a small decline (0.5%) overall in the Labour Force between 2019 and 2020.

The number of persons who were not in the Labour Force, i.e. Not Active, increased by 4.7% to 1,546,000 in the year to 2020.

Background Notes

Labour Force Survey (LFS)

The LFS, which was published on 25 February for Q4 2020, is the official source of employment estimates for Ireland. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) are obliged to follow specific methodology for the LFS including how a person is classified as employed, unemployed or economically inactive (not in the labour force) using the ILO concepts and definitions. The ILO criteria do not fully capture the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market – see Information Note on the implications of COVID-19 on the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The Information Note highlights the challenges in the application of the ILO concepts following the introduction of the COVID-19 income support payments.

For further COVID-19 related information go to the CSO COVID-19 Information Hub

Please Note: The Labour Market and Earnings Division of the CSO is compiling a list of users who have registered to be kept informed in relation to relevant announcements from the CSO relating to Labour Market and Earnings, including publication plans from the Division. If you haven't already done so you can register your email address by sending an email to labour@cso.ie asking to be included on this user list.

 

Further Information

Contact
E-mail: labour@cso.ie
Jim Dalton
(+353) 87 678 0316
Martina O'Callaghan
(+353) 21 4535491