Unemployment figures published later today will likely show the number of people availing of some sort of Covid-19 support has peaked, although the huge threat of long-term unemployment will continue to haunt many households.
After rising steadily since the onset of the emergency to 214,700 in April, unemployment figures for May will show more people joined the official jobless claimant count in the month.
But the rate of increase has been less dramatic than in the financial slump of a decade ago because of the huge numbers availing of the €350-a-week pandemic unemployment and wage support schemes.
The new figures will boost Government’s hope that they signify a high watermark in the crisis and that the number needing public support will not exceed 1.3m.
Updated figures published yesterday by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection showed there were 543,200 people receiving the €350-a-week pandemic unemployment payment, down by 36,200 in the past week.
At the same time, the number of people availing of the wage support scheme rose by 25,300 to more than 508,100.
The figures suggest that two-thirds of the workforce in the private sector are still in receipt of some sort of public payment during the pandemic, even as some workers go back to work.
Conall Mac Coille, chief economist at broker Davy, said the figures could mark the peak in the number claiming government payments.
However, the figures nonetheless suggest large numbers are in danger of falling into long-term unemployment.
The data show that the largest groups needing the pandemic unemployment payments include the 122,200 people who worked in accommodation and food service, and the 80,900 in wholesale and retail.
Unlike construction workers who are returning slowly, accommodation and retail workers are not going back to work any time soon and are in danger of falling into long-term unemployment, as happened during the financial crisis.
Separate figures also published today will likely show that the exchequer deficit has ballooned to more than €3bn in May as the costs of the pandemic unemployment and wage support schemes are added to the continuing healthcare costs.
Nonetheless, May’s tax revenues will likely bring a major piece of good news for the beleaguered exchequer in that buoyant corporation tax revenues from multinationals are likely to go a long way to offset the slide in Vat and other major tax sources.