June 3, 2020 / 11:02 AM / a month ago

Irish virus-adjusted unemployment rate falls from record high

FILE PHOTO: An empty street with construction cranes is seen as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Dublin, Ireland, April 25, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s unemployment rate, including temporary layoffs linked to the coronavirus, fell to 26.1% at the end of May from a record 28.2% in April, data reflecting the first stage of the economy’s gradual reopening showed on Wednesday.

Ireland’s unemployment rate stood at 4.8% before as many as 600,000 people signed up to claim emergency COVID-19 jobless payments. That number fell to 543,000 this week after the government allowed the resumption of outdoor work, including construction and some retail activities.

The government said a further 20,100 claimants had returned to work and would receive their last payment this week, ahead of the planned move on Monday to the second of five phases which will allow some more small retail outlets and marts reopen.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said the government may also decide this week to speed up one of Europe’s most modest lockdown exits that envisages hotels remaining shut until late July and not reopening pubs until August 10.

Wednesday’s data does not 508,000 workers whom the government said have received at least one weekly payment from a separate wage subsidy scheme for impacted companies, under which the state agreed in March to pay 70% of wages up to a maximum of 410 euros a week.

The government, which is supporting half of Ireland’s 2.5 million labour force through the two emergency payments and regular jobless benefits, plans to extend the temporary schemes beyond June and is set to decide for how long later this week.

Excluding pandemic payments, the jobless rate rose for the third successive month to 5.6% from 5.4% in April, indicating that some of the job losses are already permanent.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries; Editing by Toby Chopra and John Stonestreet

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