Numbers rising | 

Dublin has almost 40pc of all PUP claimants as rural areas recover faster

There were 20,469 people claiming PUP in Dublin in the first week of December, when most restrictions had been lifted
The impact of home working could be key to Dublin’s difficulties, according to some economists. Photo: Tony Gavin

The impact of home working could be key to Dublin’s difficulties, according to some economists. Photo: Tony Gavin

Anne-Marie Walsh

Rural areas have bounced back more quickly from Covid upheaval as Dublin and commuter counties recover more slowly from the economic devastation caused by the pandemic

The portion of people claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in the capital compared with peak levels is higher than any other county in Ireland.

An analysis of official data by the Sunday World reveals that claimants made up just 6pc of their peak levels in some counties at the start of this month. But the figure stood at 12pc in Dublin.

There were 20,469 people claiming PUP in Dublin in the first week of December, when most restrictions had been lifted.

This represented 12pc of the 174,909 people who were on the payment in May last year when the total number of claimants peaked.

In contrast, the number of claimants was at 6pc of peak levels in Carlow, Donegal, Roscommon, Tipperary, and Wexford.

Newer curbs due to the Omicron variant have caused numbers to start rising again, as much of the hospitality and entertainment sector has been restricted to shorter opening hours since earlier this month.

The less frequent incidence of home working in Dublin could be key to the capital's difficulties, according to some economists.

Co-director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute Tom McDonnell said Dublin has almost 40pc of all PUP claimants, despite making up 28pc of the population.

“The weakest bounce-back in transitioning off PUP is in Dublin, and the next four weakest counties are surrounding it,” he said.

“The more rural you go, the better the bounce-back. The data is suggesting that maybe the west has benefited most from remote working and the east is most affected. That would imply the services that people demand have moved away from the greater Dublin area to the west and rural half of the country.

“The types of services in Dublin – like arts and entertainment, accommodation and food services – might make it harder for it to recover.

“There is not as much spending power, as people in commuter counties who are working from home are not going for lunch there.

“This might be a temporary effect, but we are looking at a grim six weeks. The longer restrictions go on, the more chance that businesses will give up.”

Economist Jim Power said there were still a lot of restaurants closed or not operating fully and this was a reflection of home working.

“It’s having a huge impact on business in the city centre,” he said.

“Places like Dundrum are really busy but Dublin city centre is still relatively quiet. The rest of the country wouldn’t have the same impact.

“The fact that PUP numbers are down is positive, but I guess I would have hoped for them to be significantly lower at this juncture, particularly in accommodation and food services and the retail sector.

“I know a lot of restaurants are opening for restricted hours or have no evening meals because they can’t get chefs. At this point, it’s only going to get worse.”

The number of claimants was between 9pc and 10pc of peak levels in commuter towns of Louth, Meath, Wicklow and Kildare in the first week of December.

It was at 7pc of the peak in Cork, Cavan, Kerry, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Mayo, Offaly, Sligo, Waterford, and Westmeath.

Although Dublin lagged behind other counties in terms of the numbers coming off PUP, the overall number claiming it has plummeted.

A massive 605,668 people were on it at the peak in May last year. This plunged to 53,099 at the start of this month when most restrictions had lifted.

However, a recent cabinet memo warned that thousands of jobs could be lost when wage subsidies that are propping up almost 300,000 workers are withdrawn at the end of April.

Older workers will find it harder to bounce back from unemployment than any other age group, according to Irish Congress of Trade Unions social policy officer, Laura Bambrick.

She said there were three times as many over-55s still claiming PUP than under-25s in the week before PUP reopened on December 7.

“Employment and training supports need to be designed with this in mind,” she said.

“We need an immediate and ambitious programme to help older workers who lost their job as a result of Covid-19 get back to work.”

There were more workers from the retail and wholesale trade on PUP than any other sector in early December.

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