A range of measures have been introduced by the Government in relation to providing income support for those whose employment has been affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland. The available schemes are being administered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) and the Revenue Commissioners.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has worked to identify the detail available from the different sources and how the different schemes should be classified for statistical purposes. This information note outlines how they will be treated for the purposes of both the Live Register and the Monthly Unemployment Estimates releases for March 2020.
1. Live Register
The Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time (those who work up to three days a week), seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance.
The Live Register series comprises persons under 65 years of age in the following classes or their equivalent prior to the inception of the current schemes:
• All Claimants for Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) excluding systematic short-time workers
• Applicants for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) excluding smallholders/farm assists and other self-employed persons
• Other registrants including applicants for credited Social Welfare contributions but excluding those directly involved in an industrial dispute.
The total number of persons on the Live Register is a series which is available back to 1967 on the CSO’s PxStat tabular data service. The Live Register series is of immense historical value and the CSO is keen to protect the continuity of the series, while also trying to make as much information as possible available to users, charting the labour market effects of COVID-19 at this time.
COVID-19 Payments and the Live Register
The majority of those whose income from employment has been affected due to COVID-19 are currently being facilitated through the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment which is administered by the DEASP while a smaller cohort are currently being facilitated through the Revenue Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.
The COVID-19 payments are emergency payments which are short-term in nature with a current expected duration of 12 weeks after which people may return to work or may be considered for Jobseekers Benefit (JB)/Jobseekers Assistance (JA).
It is not possible at this stage to determine which outcome would be likely for these individuals and changing the methodology of the historically valuable Live Register time series for a short-term emergency measure designed to deal with COVID-19 is not seen as statistically valid or beneficial. Therefore, the Live Register for March 2020 will be compiled in the traditional way and will include those as outlined in the points above.
However, in recognition of the need to provide decision makers and the public with information relating to the impact of COVID-19, the Live Register release being issued tomorrow, Thursday April 2nd, 2020 will include:
• The Live Register Total;
• The Seasonally adjusted Live Register Total;
• Number of claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment;
• Number of claimants on the Revenue Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme;
• Total of the Live Register plus claimants of the two foregoing COVID-19 related payments.
This approach preserves the continuity of the traditional Live Register series from what is a short-term emergency intervention while at the same time providing transparency around the impact of COVID-19.
Pandemic Unemployment Payments
The CSO is aware that individuals who are entitled to the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment are being advised to apply instead for jobseekers’ payments if they have an adult dependant and at least one child, or if they are single and have four or more children. These individuals would receive a payment of more than the flat rate of €350 for Pandemic Unemployment Payment due to increases for dependants on JB/JA.
Ideally, the CSO would remove those jobseeker payment applicants from the numbers on the Live Register count for March 2020 and classify them under pandemic related payments but that is not currently possible based on the information available to us. As a result, the headline figure being published tomorrow for the Live Register may include a small number of claimants who are only included due to the number of dependants they have. The CSO may revise the Live Register total for March 2020 later if more information becomes available about all those in receipt of the various payments from DEASP and the Revenue Commissioners.
2. Monthly Unemployment Estimates
The Monthly Unemployment Estimates release was initially scheduled to be published on March 31st but its publication was deferred by the CSO to give time to determine how the measures introduced by the Government to date to deal with loss of income from employment should be treated for statistical purposes.
The CSO now plans to publish the Monthly Unemployment Estimates release for March 2020 next week on a date to be confirmed in due course. This release will contain the standard tables of unemployment rates and volumes, which are based on the official Live Register total.
COVID-19 Payments and Monthly Unemployment Estimates
The CSO has also decided to produce a supplementary measure of unemployment in parallel with the routine Monthly Unemployment Estimate, which will incorporate those in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payments into the calculation to produce a COVID-19 adjusted monthly unemployment rate for March 2020.
As outlined previously, at present there is no information available to the CSO to indicate which of those in receipt of the emergency payment would have been included on the Live Register if the emergency arrangements did not exist. The CSO has decided that those in receipt of the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme having an attachment to their employer will not be included in the calculation of the COVID-19 adjusted monthly unemployment rate.
Therefore, the COVID-19 adjusted monthly unemployment rate for March 2020 will be based on the assumption that all claimants of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment would have qualified for the JB/JA. As this scenario is highly unlikely, it is important that users view the COVID-19 adjusted monthly unemployment rate published as the upper bound for the true rate and the standard Monthly Unemployment Rate as the lower bound.
3. Official Measure of Unemployment - Labour Force Survey
The official measure of unemployment, based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concepts and definitions, comes from the quarterly Labour Force Survey (LFS). The ILO measure of unemployment is the international standard and all EU Member States are legally obliged to compile and provide this data to Eurostat on a quarterly basis.
Data for the first Quarter (Q1) of 2020 is scheduled to be published on May 21st, 2020. The survey covering Q2 2020 will be live from April 6th, 2020. We have included a short COVID-19 related module in the questionnaire for Q2 2020. These additional questions are designed to covers issues such as job loss, change in working hours, loss of income, loneliness, and experience of financial or health related worries due to COVID-19. Data for Q2 2020 is currently scheduled to be published on August 25th, 2020.
As referenced in our Press Statement of March 20th, 2020 due to COVID-19 the CSO had to suspend direct face-to-face household interviews in the quarterly LFS, and CSO interviewers are conducting all LFS household interviews over the phone. This change in data collection methodology may have an impact on the comparability of the data vis-a-vis previous quarters, and both quality and timeliness may be affected. We will be working diligently to try and minimise the impact of this methodological change on the data.
A definition of the LFS concept of labour force status that currently applies to EU member states which is based on the ILO concepts and definitions is available at the following link: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/EU_labour_force_survey_-_methodology
4. Further Revisions
The Monthly Unemployment Series is a seasonally adjusted series and, as always, is subject to revision when more information becomes available.
The real longer-term impact will not be known until the COVID-19 related payments cease and a clearer picture emerges of movements of COVID-19 claimants post cessation of the COVID-19 schemes (e.g. return to work, onto JB or JA) and when information collected in the Labour Force Survey (LFS) becomes available.
The COVID-19 Adjusted Monthly Unemployment Rate will only be published for the months where the COVID-19 related payments exist.
The CSO will continue to engage with users around all releases and users can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or clarification in relation to either the Live Register or the Monthly Unemployment Estimates releases if required.