The number of people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment has fallen again to 439,000 - a drop of 26,900 over the last week, according to the latest figures from the Department of Social Protection.

At the peak of the crisis, 598,000 people were in receipt of the payment.

But as the economy has gradually reopened, 159,000 have exited the scheme, which was established on 26 March.

While these figures represent good news for the Government, the fact that almost 440,000 people remain dependent on the PUP suggests that there is still a long way to go to bring unemployment to sustainable levels, particularly given that a further 225,600 people remain on the Live Register.

Since the scheme was launched on 16 March, 41,300 PUP recipients have closed their claims and are now in jobs subsidised by the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS).

63,500 employers have registered for the TWSS, which is delivering state support for the wages of around 405,000 employees.

When those claiming the PUP (439,000), those on the Live Register (225,600) and those covered by the TWSS (405,000) are combined, over a million people are still fully or partially dependent on the state for their income.

The newly-appointed Minister with responsibility for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands Heather Humphreys said she had been appointed at the most challenging time in the history of the State when it was managing emergency payments for so many people and households in every county.

She welcomed the continuing fall in the numbers depending on the PUP, adding that she looked forward to working closely with Department officials to help people who have lost their jobs to get back into employment as quickly as possible.

She said this would involve providing people from all communities across the state with the necessary supports and services to assist them in transitioning back into employment. 

The Department figures indicate that some 25,700 people closed their PUP claims last week - with 20,100 reporting that they were returning to work. Of those 20,100, approximately 14,000 will receive their final payment this week.

The sector with the highest number of people receiving the PUP is Accommodation and Food Service activities (110,700), followed by Wholesale and Retail Trade (57,000) and Administrative and Support Service activities (36,200).

The top three sectors in which employees are returning to work this week are Wholesale and Retail Trade, Repair of Motor Vehicles and motorcycles (4,100 back in work),  Accommodation and Food Service activities (3,600) and Construction (2,900).

Since the peak on 5 May of the numbers receiving the PUP, the number of recipients from the Construction sector has dropped by 55%, Manufacturing by 42% and Wholesale and Retail Trade by 37%.

The largest cohort of those returning to work this week are aged 35-44 (5,100), followed by those aged 25-34 (4,500), those aged 45-54 (3,900) and those aged under 25 (3,800).

To date 51,850 people aged up to 66 have been medically certified to receive the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit of €350 per week. Of those just over 7% (3,706) have actually been diagnosed with Covid-19, while the remaining 93% were certified to self-isolate on a precautionary basis. 

However, reflecting a downward trend, in the last week, just 108 have been newly medically certified for the Covid-19 Illness Benefit, with only 8 of those actually contracting the virus. 

 At present there are just 1,050 people receiving the benefit.

The highest numbers of certified recipients for the Covid-19 Illness Benefit were in Human Health and Social Work (11,900), Wholesale and Retail Trade (11,000) and Manufacturing (6,950).