The Labour Force Survey: Quarter 2 2020
Data from the latest Labour Force Survey and the first edition of a 'Labour Market Insight Series' (a new series of bulletin style releases designed to provide additional insight into the effect of COVID-19 on the labour market in Ireland) make for some stark reading. With the rate of churn from employment to unemployment, from unemployment to wage supports and from wage supports to unemployment lockdown has brought about, especially between April and June, it is difficult to get a feel for the full impact of COVID as the dust is yet to settle. Sampling in an environment in such flux over an entire quarter is extremely difficult. The traditional labour market indicators measured in this environment therefore do not capture the picture in a way that lends itself easily to analysis over time.
However, examining various groups, we can get some picture of the relative impact of the crisis.
Due to supports such as TWSS and PUP and the (hopefully) temporary nature of a significant amount of the current unemployment, an adjusted COVID rate of unemployment is published with the standard rate. Using the standard ILO criteria, the unadjusted number of persons aged 15-74 years who were unemployed in Q2 2020 stood at 118,700 with an associated Unemployment Rate of 5.1%.
However, at the end of June 2020, the COVID-19 Adjusted Measure of Unemployment, or the upper bound of the number of persons aged 15-74 years who were unemployed, was 531,412 (or 23.1% for those aged 15-74 years). By the end of July 2020, these are estimated to have stood at 386,935 and 16.7% respectively.
Sectors most affected were Accommodation and Food Services (-29.6% or -53,600), Administration and Support (-17.2% or -18,800) and Construction (-12.1% or -17,800).
Younger groups are again disproportionately affected by COVID 19, as they were in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. A strong relationship between age group and changes in participation and unemployment is evident in the data. While the participation rate for 20-24 year olds fell from 73.0 to 61.0 over the year, it fell by less than 1 percentage point for 55-59 year olds (from 68.8 to 68.2 percent). The number of under 25’s on the live register (the most narrow definition of unemployment currently) increased by 66.7 percent between January and July (19,590 to 32,671) compared to just 29.0 percent for over 25’s (164,164 to 211,891). 131,000 individuals under the age of 25 were in receipt of some type of government assistance (PUP and TWSS included) by August 2020 (111,000 more than in January). With no end in sight to the current housing crisis, this is a particularly worrying development.
Groups with higher levels of education have also been less affected. At the top, the participation rate of those with tertiary education fell from 89.2 to 87.0 percent over the year to Q2 2020, while the biggest decrease was recorded for those with Higher secondary education (72.9 to 63.6 percent). This is also reflected in the occupations related to higher levels of education. Employment numbers for Managers fell from 182,400 to 181,500 between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020 (less than half of one percent) whilst employment in Elementary professions (requiring least education/training) fell from 256,600 to 192,800 in the same period (24.8 percent).
The participation rate fell particularly hard in the Border region in the year leading up to Q2 2020, where participation was already among the lowest in 2019 from 58.5 to 52.2 percent. This compares to a drop in the State average of 62.1 to 58.9 percent in the same period.