Massive Employment Shifts in Labour Market after exits from PUP payment

By Julia Brennan

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The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest shocks to the labour market. One of these disruptive shocks are about employment transitions – the movement of people between employment or unemployment.The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) statistics is one of the key factors where we can see these transitions. While many people exited the PUP and returned to their former employers, it was curious how many of those changed their job or career trajectories after the stopping their PUP payment.

In the first week of the payment scheme in March 2020, there were 239,580 PUP recipients. Substantial increases over the next two weeks followed by smaller weekly increases brought the series to its peak of 605,539 for the week ending 3 May 2020 according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO). The total number of people who had availed of the PUP ended at 871,476 total recipients.

The most recent CSO figures have shown that out of 871,476 recipients from 2020, there are still 77,806 recipients as of 31 October 2021.

The Department of Social Protection recently did research into individuals in receipt of PUP and the work trends and transitions as they closed their PUP claims. All data is preliminary as some individuals still remain on the payment scheme and people are continuing to return to work. The Department of Social Protection plans to further continue with this analysis.

According to this report, 62% of people who have returned to work are currently working for their former pre-pandemic employer, 12% of people have moved to work with a different employer in the same broad sector of employment as that in which they worked immediately prior to their PUP claim, and 26% of people have moved to work with a different employer in a different sector than that in which they worked in prior.

After the opening up of society, many people flocked to new opportunities and work/job changes. One of these opportunities was known as the ‘Skills to Complete’ activation initiative. Set up in 2020, this initiative was implemented in response to the urgent need for activation, upskilling and reskilling for people who have been displaced from their jobs as a result of Covid-19.

According to a representative from the Department of Social Protection, SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority developed this initiative in partnership with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), and the ETBs, and with input from the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and industry representatives. 

By combining and expanding three strands of FET provision and transversal skills development to help employability; building the digital capabilities now required for almost every job; and specific Level 4-6 courses targeting growth sectors and jobs, Skills to Compete delivers a powerful labour market activation response.

Programmes like these could be a factor in the struggle for businesses, particularly in retail and hospitality to hire new employees.

However, these recent findings regarding post PUP employment have shown that the labour market is experiencing a significant level of transition activity, which happens to explain only partly why employers around the country are raising their hiring signs and yet cannot make any leeway with recruiting in workers.

330,000 individuals returned to work with their pre-pandemic employer. The sectors with the largest percentage of returned workers were manufacturing (74%), other services included personal care (72%) and construction (71%).

In comparison, information and communication (41%), as well as administrative and support services (48%) were among the lowest. Accommodation and food industries saw the largest number of returning workers to their pre-Covid employers c.71,000, representing 58% of people who returned to the work in this sector.

Data table supplied by Department of Social Protection

In contrast, 198,000 people exited the PUP to return to work with a new employer.

In line with the previous data shown, the sectors with the largest percentage of individuals returning to work for a new employer were information and communications (59%) as well as administrative and support services (52%).

Accommodation and food also remained in the big figures with 52,000 individuals who had previously worked in this sector, began working with a new employer across various sectors – including accommodation and food.

Data Table supplied by Department of Social Protection

Figures show that 12% of all who returned to employment are now currently working with a different employer in the same sector. This figure equates to around 63,000 people, which is 32% of the overall people who have started work with a new employer.

Data table supplied by Department of Social Protection

The report also demonstrated that 135,000 individuals (26%) of all those returning to work are now working with a different employer in a completely different sector to their former pre-pandemic employment. This represents 68% of all people who started work with a new employer.

Of these, the Arts sector, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, had the highest number of individuals moving to a new sector of employment post PUP. Approximately 4,500 people changed careers or jobs, with the two most popular transition sectors for Arts being Wholesale/Retail and Accommodation and Food.

Data table supplied by the Department of Social Protection

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