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CSO statistical release, , 11am

Monthly Unemployment

March 2021

Seasonally Adjusted FiguresNon Seasonally Adjusted Figures
 Number of persons unemployed Unemployment rate (%)Traditional Unemployment rate (%) COVID-19 Adjusted Unemployment rate (%)
March 2020122,300 5.04.7 21.1
February 2021139,200 5.85.3 24.8
March 2021137,100 5.85.4 24.2
   Percentage PointsPercentage Points Percentage Points
Change in month-2,100  0.0 0.1  -0.6
Change in year 14,800  0.80.7 3.1

The COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate for March 2021 was 24.2% 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 March 2021. While the standard measure of Monthly Unemployment was 5.8% in March 2021, the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment could indicate a rate as high as 24.2% if all claimants of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) were classified as unemployed. This alternative measure is down from 24.8% in February 2021 and up from 21.1% in March 2020.

The current release is the first time the CSO has been able to analyse a full year of unemployment figures using the new COVID-19 Adjusted Measure. When comparing the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment in different months, users should consider the impact that Government restrictions have on the numbers in receipt of the PUP.

The application of the standard methodology gives a seasonally adjusted Monthly Unemployment Rate of 5.8% for March 2021, unchanged from February 2021 and up from 5.0% in March 2020. The seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed was 137,100 in March 2021, compared to 139,200 in February 2021. When compared to March 2020, there was an annual increase of 14,800 in the seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed.  In March 2021, the Monthly Unemployment Rate was 5.7% for males and 5.8% 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 14.9% in March 2021, while it was 4.7% for those aged 25 to 74 years, see Tables 1(b) and 1(c).

The methodology for the standard Monthly Unemployment Estimates (MUE) involves forecasting the number of persons who are unemployed using the trend in the Live Register. 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.

As well as the standard Monthly Unemployment Estimates for March 2021, this release also presents an alternative COVID-19 adjusted unemployment measure to estimate the share of the labour force in March 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 March 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 24.6% for males and 23.7% for females in March 2021. Breaking the results down by broad age group, the new COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment is 59.2% for those aged 15 to 24 years and 20.3% 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 EWSS, having an attachment 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 MyWelfare.ie 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 33.3% 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 March 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 is designed to be an upper bound rate.

It should also 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 main arrears payment occurred on 01 December 2020. All arrears paid to date are now included in the week of the entitlement period, rather than the week of payment.  For March 2021 release, updates have been made to the way the age of recipients is estimated, and it is now based on age at the time of entitlement.

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.