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For more information on this release:
E-mail: Edel Flannery (+353) 87 9135708 Martina O'Callaghan (+353) 21 453 5491
For general information on CSO statistics: (+353) 21 453 5000 On-line ISSN 2009-8456

This release was compiled during the COVID-19 pandemic. For further information on the methodology applied in this release see the Technical Note on Monthly Unemployment Estimates and COVID-19 that was published alongside the August 2020 Monthly Unemployment Estimate release. For more information please also see the Press Statement Monthly Unemployment May 2021 and the Information Note on Implications of COVID-19 on the Live Register and the Monthly Unemployment Estimates.

CSO statistical release, , 11am

Monthly Unemployment

May 2021

Seasonally Adjusted FiguresNon Seasonally Adjusted Figures
 Number of persons unemployed Unemployment rate (%)Traditional Unemployment rate (%) COVID-19 Adjusted Unemployment rate (%)
May 2020113,100 5.15.3 29.8
April 2021181,300 7.97.9 24.8
May 2021174,700 7.88.0 21.9
   Percentage PointsPercentage Points Percentage Points
Change in month-6,600 - 0.1 0.1 -2.9
Change in year 61,600  2.72.7 -7.9

The COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate for May 2021 was 21.9% for all persons including those on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Figure 1 Monthly Unemployment  rate seasonally adjusted
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The COVID-19 crisis has continued to have a significant impact on the labour market in Ireland in May 2021. While the standard measure of Monthly Unemployment was 7.8% in May 2021, the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment could indicate a rate as high as 21.9% if all claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) were classified as unemployed. This alternative measure is down from the revised rate of 24.8% in April 2021 and from 29.8% in May 2020.

When comparing the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment in different months, users should consider the impact of Government restrictions on the number of people in receipt of the PUP.

The application of the standard methodology gives a seasonally adjusted Monthly Unemployment Rate of 7.8% for May 2021, down from the revised rate of 7.9% in April 2021 and up from 5.1% in May 2020. The seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed was 174,700 in May 2021, compared to 181,300 in April 2021. When compared to May 2020, there was an annual increase of 61,600 in the seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed.  In May 2021, the Monthly Unemployment Rate was 7.9% for males and 7.8% for females, see Table 1(a).

Breaking the results down by broad age group, the traditional Monthly Unemployment Rate for those aged 15 to 24 years was 18.1% in May 2021, while it was 6.8% for those aged 25 to 74 years, see Tables 1(b) and 1(c).

The methodology for the standard Monthly Unemployment Estimates involves forecasting the number of persons who are unemployed using the trend in the Live Register. Since October 2019, the CSO have been using the latest available quarterly Labour Force Survey (LFS) benchmarks in the compilation of the standard rates and volumes of Monthly Unemployment ahead of the publication of the LFS results. This process change had resulted in at most three months of data being forecasted and a consequential reduction in the volume and levels of revisions to the Monthly Unemployment series since then. For further information please refer to: Information Note - Monthly Unemployment October 2019.

A new framework regulation governing the production of European Statistics on persons and households (Integration European Social Statistics framework regulation – IESS FR) came into force on 01 January 2021. The IESS FR covers various domains of social statistics including labour market statistics. It aims to ensure that social statistics based on sample surveys, e.g. the LFS, are produced in a more harmonised and coordinated manner across Europe.

The IESS FR and associated Delegated and Implementation Acts govern the production of the LFS and Monthly Unemployment Estimates (MUE) by the CSO. The CSO had to introduce changes to the LFS questionnaire in Ireland from Quarter 1 (Q1) 2021 because of the IESS FR. These include changes to LFS variables collected by the LFS questionnaire with some new questions added, while some questions have been removed, and others have changed in terms of response options or frequency. There have also been some changes to the order of the questions as the flow of the LFS questionnaire across Europe is now more prescribed and harmonised under the IESS FR. The LFS questionnaire for Ireland for Q1 2021 is available here: Labour Force Survey.

While no significant breaks in series for the LFS were expected due to the IESS FR, the LFS results for Q1 2021, which would normally have been published before the end of May 2021, were postponed and have been published today, 23 June 2021. The additional time was used to allow the CSO to analyse the results of the pilot survey and to fully evaluate the impacts of the IESS FR on the LFS. The Labour Market Analysis team in the CSO worked with their colleagues from the Social Data Collection division and the Methodology division in the CSO and with Eurostat to finalise the LFS estimates for Q1 2021 and ensure that a consistent and coherent historic LFS series is available for users.

The MUE results for April 2021 would normally have been compiled using the LFS benchmarks from Q1 2021. Because the introduction of the IESS FR for the LFS in 2021 has caused a delay to the compilation and publication of LFS results for Q1 2021, it has also caused a delay in the availability of the LFS benchmarks for Q1 2021 required for the MUE process. Thus, the MUE for April 2021 only incorporated LFS benchmarks up to Q4 2020 for the monthly estimates up to December 2020 while the estimates for January 2021 through to April 2021 were forecasted. The CSO decided to postpone the publication of the MUE results for May 2021 and publish them alongside the LFS results for Q1 2021 today. Please see the following Information Note published on 03 June 2021 for more information: Implications of the Implementation of the Integration of European Social Statistics (IESS) Framework Regulation on Labour Market Statistics in Ireland in 2021. Users can note that the CSO will publish the MUE for June 2021 on Wednesday 30 June 2021.

As well as the standard Monthly Unemployment Estimates for May 2021, this release also presents an alternative COVID-19 adjusted unemployment measure to estimate the share of the labour force in May 2021 that were not working due to unemployment or who were out of work due to COVID-19 and receiving the PUP. These estimates are presented in Table A1.

The lower bound of Monthly Unemployment rates and volumes presented in Table A1 are the non-seasonally adjusted estimates for May 2021 based on the standard methodology. These lower bounds are based on the assumption that none of those in receipt of the PUP would have been classified as unemployed if the payment did not exist.

If all claimants of the PUP were classified as unemployed, the upper bound, or COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment indicates a rate of 21.9% for all persons, with a rate of 21.6% for males and 22.3% for females in May 2021. Breaking the results down by broad age group, the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment is 58.8% for those aged 15 to 24 years and 18.1% for those aged 25 to 74 years. See Table A1.

The CSO first published the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment in April 2020 as part of the March 2020 Monthly Unemployment Estimates release. At the time, the COVID-19 income supports were set up as temporary measures to protect those who lost income from employment due to COVID-19.

Those benefitting from the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and later the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), having a connection to their employer, would continue to be classified as Employed using the internationally agreed criteria for reporting on official labour market status. It was not possible to ascertain how those in receipt of the PUP would be classified using the labour market status criteria. Because of this, the CSO established the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment as an upper bound measure for unemployment.

This COVID-19 adjusted measure assumes that all those who are in receipt of the PUP would be classified as Employed for the standard measure on Monthly Unemployment and considers them as Unemployed for the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment. This assumption would have held in March 2020 when those who started benefitting from the scheme were required to have lost income from employment to be eligible to receive the payment. The assumption would still hold for new applicants for the PUP but is unlikely to hold now for all recipients given that the scheme has been extended and some recipients would now be in receipt of it for over 12 months.

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) have supplied supplementary information on whether PUP recipients were in full-time education when asked to certify their status on the service. While it should be noted that this information is not complete, it is estimated that at least 8.1% of all recipients of PUP since last March were attending full-time education at the time of certification. For those aged 25 years and over this could be as low as 1.3% while it is at least 33.7% for those aged under 25 years.

This analysis indicates that caution needs to be exercised when interpreting the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment particularly for those aged under 25 years. If the PUP scheme did not exist, those persons, being in full-time education, would not be eligible to receive Unemployment Assistance or Unemployment Benefit and so would not be included in the methodology to estimate the traditional measure of monthly unemployment.

While, it is not possible to ascertain how those in receipt of the PUP in May 2021 would be classified in terms of official labour market status, any changes to the methodology for the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment, including consideration of their education status, would result in a lower rate than the current methodology. Information is not currently available to establish the status of those who are currently in receipt of the PUP based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definitions for employment and unemployment. Thus, the CSO have decided to continue with the previous methodology for the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment. It is important for users to note that it is a short-term measure and designed to be an upper bound rate and that is still the case now.

It should be noted that DSP has been paying arrears to recipients of the PUP, to take into account the movement of people in and out of employment. The first arrears payment occurred on 01 December 2020. All PUP arrears paid to date are included in the week of the entitlement period, rather than the week of payment.

The CSO will continue to evaluate the Live Register series as well as the current and any new income support schemes to determine whether any additional changes are required to the methodology for the traditional or COVID-19 adjusted estimates. Any changes the CSO may make to the methodology in the future will be clearly outlined to users in the statistical release and accompanying material. 

Data in this release are subject to revision, caused by updates to the seasonally adjusted series, whenever new monthly data are added. In addition, it should be noted that larger revisions can occur when the most recent Labour Force Survey (LFS) data are included in the calculation process. 

For further information on COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment, please refer to our Technical Note (updated for August 2020) and Information Note.

Table 1a Seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment by sex - All persons aged 15-74 years
   Number of persons Unemployment rate (%)
   MalesFemalesAll Persons MalesFemalesAll Persons
Table 1b Seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment by sex - persons aged 15-24 years
   Number of persons Unemployment rate (%)
   MalesFemalesAll Persons MalesFemalesAll Persons
2019May25,60016,40042,000 17.011.614.3
 June24,50015,70040,200 16.111.313.8
 July22,40015,00037,300 14.611.012.9
 August20,50014,40034,900 13.410.712.1
 September19,10014,40033,500 12.610.611.6
 October17,50014,50032,000 11.710.311.0
 December19,50014,20033,700 12.59.611.1
2020January22,60013,40036,000 13.78.911.4
 February21,30013,90035,300 13.29.511.4
 March20,00016,00036,000 13.311.812.6
 April15,90017,90033,700 12.615.514.0
 May15,60020,30035,900 13.618.716.1
 June18,80021,80040,700 16.019.317.6
 July26,60023,30050,000 19.918.119.0
 August28,90023,20052,200 20.517.118.9
 September29,90025,00054,900 20.818.119.4
 October22,80021,90044,700 16.516.816.7
 November21,20022,80044,100 15.517.816.6
 December18,70022,50041,200 13.917.715.8
2021January21,60025,80047,400 15.619.717.6
 February21,20026,90048,100 15.220.417.7
 March20,70024,90045,600 14.719.116.8
 April18,90022,50041,400 15.720.718.1
 May17,50020,10037,600 16.020.518.1
Table 1c Seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment by sex - persons aged 25-74 years
   Number of persons Unemployment rate (%)
   MalesFemalesAll Persons MalesFemalesAll Persons
Table A1 Covid-19 Adjusted Monthly Unemployment Estimates classified by sex and age group
   Number of persons out of work1 Monthly Unemployment Rate %1
Month  MalesFemalesTotal MalesFemalesTotal
May 2021Persons aged 15-74 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)95,13082,477177,607
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)260,920226,202487,122 21.622.321.9
 Persons aged 15-24 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)18,75322,78441,537 17.323.020.1
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)58,38263,396121,778
 Persons aged 25-74 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)76,37759,693136,070
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)202,538162,806365,344 18.417.818.1
April 20212Persons aged 15-74 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)96,27582,567178,842
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)297,578266,481564,059 24.225.524.8
 Persons aged 15-24 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)19,25622,90542,161 16.521.719.0
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)65,24872,372137,620 56.168.562.0
 Persons aged 25-74 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)77,01959,662136,681
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)232,330194,109426,439 20.920.720.8
May 20202Persons aged 15-74 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)63,98452,813116,797
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)361,073300,394661,467 29.630.029.8
 Persons aged 15-24 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)17,02023,06640,086
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)75,00880,417155,425 65.973.469.6
 Persons aged 25-74 yearsLower Bound (Traditional MUR)46,96429,74776,711
  Upper Bound (COVID-19 Adjusted MUR)286,065219,977506,042 25.924.725.4
1 Not seasonally adjusted
2 Revised

Background Notes


The purpose of this release is to provide a detailed series of monthly unemployment estimates. The release contains both monthly unemployment rates and monthly unemployment volumes. 

Calculation of Monthly Estimates

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) provides benchmark estimates of employment and unemployment for each quarter since the beginning of 1998. These quarterly benchmark estimates are then used to compile monthly data using the Proportional Denton method. The main characteristic of this method is that the monthly Live Register series is used as an indicator to disaggregate the quarterly LFS unemployment series into a monthly series in such a way as to minimise the differences between two consecutive months. It also ensures that the average of three months in a particular calendar quarter is equal to the corresponding LFS estimate.

For months where the quarterly unemployment data is not yet available, the ratio of the LFS monthly estimate to the Live Register monthly estimate (i.e. the benchmark to indicator ratio) is forecast forward in order to extrapolate a monthly LFS estimate. This approach adheres to agreed international practice.

Please see the Technical Note published alongside the August 2020 release which outlines minor changes made to the methodology used for results presented in this release following analysis of recipient and non-recipient claims in the Live Register Series.

Seasonal Adjustment

To correct for typical seasonal patterns, the data series included have been concurrently seasonally adjusted. This seasonal adjustment is completed by applying the X-12-ARIMA model, developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. In the case of these monthly unemployment estimates, seasonal adjustment is conducted using the indirect approach, where each individual series is independently adjusted.  To preserve consistency between the individual and aggregate series, the series for gender, age group and total monthly unemployed are then created from these component series. The series for monthly unemployment rates are likewise created from these component series.

Seasonally adjusting the Monthly Unemployment series during the Covid-19 crisis period will be challenging until the scale and shape of its impact on the time series is better understood. This initial seasonally adjusted result might be revised for some months ahead as future observations become available. Users should be aware that there is increased uncertainty around the seasonally adjusted figures during this period.

Additional Background Information

Further information regarding the LFS and Live Register series are available from each respective release.

Labour Force Survey (LFS)

Live Register

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