The number of people claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has fallen below 400,000 for the first time this year, the Department of Social Protection has said.
The latest figures on the State’s support for those who have lost their jobs in the Covid-19 pandemic show that 385,211 people will be paid €114.1 million in payments this week.
This is in addition to the 183,096 people who were on the Live Register at the end of March.
It brings to more than €7.4 billion the total paid under the financial support introduced in March 2020 as the Government was forced to support people made unemployed by the pandemic. PUP sums paid range from €203 to €350 per week.
The decline in the numbers of PUP recipients below the 400,000 mark “reflects the start of the recovery phase from this pandemic”, said Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.
Ms Humphreys said the Government would at the end of this month set out the future of PUP beyond June 30th, “taking account of the trajectory of the virus, progress on the vaccine rollout, and the continued impact of the pandemic on the economy over the months ahead”.
The Minister said the Government recognised that some sectors would be “slower to reopen than others”, and promised there would be “no cliff-edge” at the end of June.
“Supports will not be suddenly withdrawn, but will be phased out in a gradual way in line with the reopening of the economy.”
Some 12,692 people closed their PUP accounts and returned to work in the last seven days as the Government has lifted some restrictions permitting a return to employment.
The numbers on the PUP payment is down 35 per cent from a peak of 598,000 in May of last year when the country was in the middle of the first lockdown of the pandemic.
Dublin is the county with the highest number of people in receipt of PUP at 125,105, followed by Cork with 37,980, and Galway with 20,987.
The sector with the highest number of people in receipt of the payment is accommodation and food services at 99,140, retail at 63,361 and construction at 37,437.
The largest decrease in the number of people in the construction sector receiving the payment was reported this week, with 4,896 fewer recipients compared with last week.
The Government permitted all construction to restart work on Tuesday.
In addition to PUP, the Government has been providing supports to help out employers affected by Covid-19, including paying out almost €3 billion on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) and €2.8 billion on the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).