Omicron restrictions see unemployment rate rise to 7.5%

A total of 193,332 people were out of work in December
Omicron restrictions see unemployment rate rise to 7.5%

The unemployment rate increased in December following the reintroduction of restrictions in the hospitality sector.

Ireland's unemployment rate increased last month following the reintroduction of restrictions in the hospitality sector in the wake of the spread of the Omicron variant.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show the number of people not working in December was 7.5% for all persons, up from 6.9% in November but down from 21.7% in December 2020.

The 193,332 people out of work in December is the first time in a year that the unemployment rate has increased.

The seasonally adjusted standard measure of unemployment, which excludes those in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), was down from 5.2% in November and down from 6.2% in December 2020.

PUP scheme reopened

The PUP scheme was in the process of being wound down when the rapid spread of the Omicron variant resulted in the reintroduction of restrictions, including an 8pm closing time for bars and restaurants. As a result, the PUP scheme was reopened for the hospitality sector.

Jack Kennedy, economist at recruitment website Indeed, said despite the increase in unemployment, employers are entering the new year with a strong desire for new hires. 

“We ended 2021 with the labour market in a strong position considering the harsh challenge that Covid-19 posed during the year," he said. "The Irish economy has again demonstrated its ability to create jobs in large numbers as it bounces back from adversity, with 16,900 fewer people unemployed at the end of December 2021, compared to a year ago.

Separate figures from the CSO show the number of new cars licensed in 2021 increased by 17,544 (21%) cars compared with 2020. There was a decrease of 10,499 (-13%) of used private cars being licensed in 2021 compared with 2020.

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