Back to Top

 Skip navigation

COVID-19 Supplemental Analysis

Open in Excel:

COVID-19 Adjusted Measures

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is obliged to follow standard definitions and methodology when calculating official estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and for Monthly Unemployment Estimates (MUE). These official measures are based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concepts and definitions. The ILO measures are the international standard and all EU Member States are legally obliged to compile and provide this data to Eurostat on a quarterly basis through the LFS and monthly through the MUE. These ILO criteria are one reason why the LFS and the MUE may not fully capture the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market.

The CSO have continued to compile the estimates for the LFS and the MUE in the usual way while also providing separate COVID-19 adjusted estimates of employment and unemployment. This approach preserves the methodology of the LFS and the MUE while at the same time providing transparency around and insight into the impact of COVID-19 on the Labour Market within Ireland.

COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment

The CSO has been producing a COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment since Quarter 1 (Q1) 2020. The estimate for the end of Q1 2021 was calculated by subtracting those who were in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) at the end of March 2021 (end of Q1 2021) from the numbers in employment during Q1 2021. The COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment is a crude measure which should be considered as the lower bound for employment.

Table 7.1. below presents the volumes and rates of the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment for the end of each quarter since Q1 2020.

Show Table: Table 7.1 COVID-19 Adjusted employment volumes and rates at the end of quarter - Q1 2020 - Q1 2021

At the end of March 2021, the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment, or the lower bound of the number of persons aged 15 years and over in employment, was estimated to have been 1,785,923 with an associated COVID-19 Adjusted Employment Rate of 52.0% for those aged 15-64 years.

By the end of April 2021, the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Employment is estimated to have been 1,845,383 with an associated COVID-19 Adjusted Employment Rate of 53.8% while the corresponding values for the end of May 2021 are 1,921,085 and 56.1%.

COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment

The CSO began publishing COVID-19 Adjusted Estimates of Unemployment as part of the MUE release for March 2020. The latest COVID-19 Adjusted Unemployment Estimates for March 2020 to May 2021 inclusive have been published in the May 2021 MUE release today. The COVID-19 Adjusted Volume of Unemployment for May 2021 was calculated by adding the number of recipients of the PUP for the last week of May 2021 to the non-seasonally adjusted estimate of the volume of unemployed persons in May 2021. These measures should be considered as the upper bound for unemployment.

At the end of March 2021, the COVID-19 adjusted number of unemployed persons aged 15-74 years is estimated to have been 612,443 with an associated COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate of 25.7%. By the end of April 2021, this adjusted measure of unemployment had reduced to 564,059 with an associated unemployment rate of 24.8% with a further fall seen during May 2021 to bring the estimates down to 487,122 and 21.9% respectively.

ILO status and Principal Economic Status (PES) for those in receipt of COVID-19 income supports in Q1 2021

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.

Table 7.2 below presents the percentages of all persons aged 15 years and older who were in each of the ILO and PES categories in Q1 2021. The percentage breakdowns by ILO and PES are also presented separately for those who were in receipt of the PUP and for those who are estimated to have benefitted from the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) during the interview reference week in Q1 2021.

Show Table: Table 7.2 Percentage of persons aged 15 years and over and benefitting from the PUP or the EWSS and classified by ILO status and PES, LFS Q1 2021

For all three groups, 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. The share of all persons aged 15 years and older who were classified as Employed using the ILO criteria was 44.5% while it was 41.8% for those 'At work’ using the PES measure.

Of those in receipt of the PUP in the reference week in Q1 2021, 49.5% were classified as Employed on the ILO basis while 43.0% classified themselves as ‘At work’ using the PES. On the other hand, 91.2% of those in receipt of the EWSS were classified as Employed on the ILO basis while 90.8% self-classified themselves as ‘At work’ using the PES

The percentage of those who were classified as Unemployed on the objective (ILO) basis was lower than the subjective (PES) basis for all three groups.

Persons in receipt of the PUP in the reference week in Q1 2021 were nearly twice as likely to self-classify themselves as Unemployed using PES (31.6%) as to be objectively classified as Unemployed on the ILO basis (16.7%).

The difference for all persons aged 15 years and over was of a lower order; 5.9% self-classified themselves as unemployed using PES while 3.4% were classified as unemployed on the ILO basis

Most of those benefitting from the EWSS were officially classified as either Employed or Inactive while 2.4% 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. The proportion of all persons aged 15 years and older who were objectively (ILO) or subjectively (PES) assessed as being ‘Inactive’ were virtually the same at 52.1% and 52.4% respectively.

While those in receipt of the EWSS were almost equally likely to classify themselves as inactive using either of the ILO or PES criteria, those in receipt of PUP were less likely to classify themselves as Inactive using PES at 25.4% compared to being classified as Inactive using the ILO criteria (33.8%)

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 absent from work due to layoff, off season, parental leave or any other reason (other than holidays, maternity/paternity leave, leave due to illness or education and training) when interviewed using the ILO criteria provided they expect to return to the job within three months or that combined with receiving some job related income or benefit in the case of parental leave. All other absences such as holidays, maternity/paternity leave, illness leave, or education and training 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 7.3 Number of persons 15 years and over in employment (ILO), number of persons absent from work and Actual Hours worked per week (in millions), Quarters 1 of 2019, 2020 and 2021

Table 7.3 above presents the numbers in employment, the numbers absent from work and the ‘Actual Hours’ worked per week in Q1 of 2019, 2020 and 2021. The annual changes and annual percentage changes to Q1 2020 and Q1 2021 are also presented.

While the numbers in employment on the ILO basis, which stood at 2,230,600 in Q1 2021, was down 116,600 or 5.0% over the year since Q1 2020, the number of employed persons who were absent from work was up 101,100 or 48.5% to 309,500. This resulted in a fall of 7.6 million in the number of hours worked to 68.7 million hours in Q1 2021, having stood at 76.3 million hours per week in Q1 2020.

The effects of COVID-19 were less apparent in Q1 2020 as many of the public health measures did not come into force until towards the end of the quarter. Nevertheless, the number of absences from work was up by 54.6% from the same quarter in 2019 but the effect on the number of hours worked was minimal.

Actual hours worked per week
Q1 1977.5
Q1 2076.3
Q1 2168.7

Table 7.4 below presents the number of persons absent from work during the reference week as a percentage of the numbers employed by economic sector for Q1 of 2019, 2020 and 2021. The overall rate of absence increased from 5.9% to 8.9% while employment grew by 2.1% between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020. In Q1 2021, the rate of absence was 13.9% but the level of employment fell by 5.0% from Q1 2020.

Show Table: Table 7.4 Absences from work in the reference week as a percentage of the numbers employed by Economic Sector, Quarter 1 2019 to Quarter 1 2021

The differing impact of COVID-19 and public health restrictions over the two-year period are very evident from the table. The rate of absence for some sectors such as Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Industry and Information & Communications have not been overly affected by the pandemic as the rate of absence has not changed much over the period. However, the adverse effect of the pandemic on the rate of absence has been much more significant for other sectors and some notable examples are:

  • The Accommodation & Food Sector services sector where the rate of absence was 7.1% in Q1 2019 and rose to 11.4% in Q1 2020 and stood at 40.8% in Q1 2021.
  • The Other activities sector which includes Arts, sports, entertainment and cultural activities where the rate of absence in Q1 2021 stood at 36.2% having increased from 6.0% and 12.0% in Q1 2019 and Q1 2020 respectively.
  • The Construction sector where the rate of absence was 28.4% in Q1 2021 having stood at 4.9% in Q1 2019 and 9.4% in Q1 2020.
Q1 2019Q1 2020Q1 2021
Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing2.901353965183754.757462686567163.26923076923077
Industry4.975643702157276.258741258741267.48322147651007
Construction4.916897506925219.3813732154996628.4033613445378
Wholesale & Retail Trade4.998355804011847.3691014867485517.1101380936342
Transportation & Storage5.29300567107759.2753623188405816.4414414414414
Accommodation & Food Service Activities7.0897655803316211.386430678466140.7949790794979
Information & Communication3.986429177268876.269592476489033.14735336194564
Financial, Insurance & Real Estate Activities6.853020739404876.276150627615067.21991701244813
Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities4.885057471264377.0950468540836.19777158774373
Administrative & Support Service Activities6.9746376811594211.280214861235518.2397959183673
Public Administration & Defence5.706521739130436.580086580086586.2953995157385
Education9.7206703910614515.593929879644215.6590683845391
Human Health & Social Work Activities6.8507514854945810.169491525423712.4268502581756
Other Activities (Cultural & Recreation)6.0271646859083211.951848667239936.1519607843137
All Economic Sectors5.865204716529618.8786639400136313.8751905316955
Show Table: Table 7.5 Total actual hours worked (millions) per week by Economic Sector, Quarter 1 2019 to Q1 2021

The number of hours worked per week in Q1 2021 in several sectors are close to 2019 levels and some of these sectors such as Public Administration and Defence or Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing were less likely to be impacted by the pandemic. However, the impact is much more evident in some other sectors these were also the sectors which recorded the largest share of absences in Q1 2021. These included:

  • The Accommodation & Food Sector where the number of hours worked per week was just 1.6 million in Q1 2021 compared to 4.4 million in Q1 2020 and 5.1 million in Q1 2019
  • The Construction Sector, where the number of hours worked per week was 5.5 million in Q1 2019 and 5.3 million in Q1 2020 but then fell to 3.3 million in Q1 2021
  • The Other activities sector, which includes culture and recreation where the number of hours worked per week fell from 3.3 million in Q1 2019 to 3.1 million in Q1 2020 and then to 1.6 million in Q1 2021
Q1 2019Q1 2020Q1 2021
Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing4.94.84.7
Industry10.710.510.7
Construction5.55.33.3
Wholesale & Retail Trade9.69.48.1
Transportation & Storage3.93.62.7
Accommodation & Food Service Activities5.14.41.6
Information & Communication4.44.75.3
Financial, Insurance & Real Estate Activities44.24.2
Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities5.15.35.1
Administrative & Support Service Activities3.53.22.2
Public Administration & Defence3.84.14.2
Education4.94.85.2
Human Health & Social Work Activities8.98.78.5
Other Activities (Cultural & Recreation)3.33.11.6

Next chapter>>Technical Note