The CSO figures also show that just over 25,000 people were benefiting from the temporary wage subsidy scheme being run by Revenue. Under this scheme, the state is trying to ensure that companies hit by COVID-19 continue to keep workers on their books by subsidising wage payments.
When combined with the traditional monthly Live Register figures, the CSO numbers show that 513,350 people are currently receiving some type of job-related support.
The statistics body published the March Live Register figures – which measure the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) – in the usual way, saying the methodology did not allow these figures to capture the “temporary” Covid-19 schemes.
The CSO said it was anxious to preserve the continuity of the Live Register figures, while also trying to give as much information as possible about the effects of COVID-19.
It said it currently saw COVID-19 payments as short-term in nature, with an expectation that after 12 weeks, those receiving such payment would either return to work or be considered for JB or JA.
The traditional Live Register figure for March, adjusted for seasonal factors, showed that 207,200 people were signing on in March, an increase of 24,400 from February. It may revise these figures at a later date when more information becomes available.
Employers’ body Ibec said the figures were not unexpected, given the unprecedented efforts to combat the coronavirus.
It repeated its call for everyone involved to help make the wage subsidy scheme work, describing it as “a critical component to ensure the sustainability of our business model during the crisis and for our reboot and recovery”.
Meanwhile, March’s Exchequer figures show that there was a deficit of €2.535 billion in the first three months of this year, compared with a shortfall of €966m in the same period last year.
The wider gap was mainly due to increased spending on measures to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tax receipts of €3.7 billion in the three months were almost €800m below target, with a strong first two months followed by a steep decline in March.
VAT receipts were particularly hard hit, and are now running almost 20% behind target. The Department of Finance said, however, that it was too early for COVID-19 to have significantly affected income tax figures.
Those targets, however, will now be recalculated to reflect the impact of COVID-19.