Almost 330,000 people will receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment this week - up over 11% in the last seven days, according to the latest Department of Social Protection figures.

The figure reflects the continuing upward trajectory of unemployment since Level 5 restrictions were imposed by the Government in a bid to quell the latest surge of Covid-19. 

Last week, almost 296,000 claimants were receiving the PUP - with almost 52,000 joining the scheme in just seven days as businesses were forced to close.

This week 329,991 will be receiving payments, as 34,000 additional claimants applied for income support. 

The Government will pay out €95.5m for this week's PUP payments, compared to €85.6m seven days ago - an increase of 11.6%.  

While the number is well off the peak of 598,000 PUP claimants last May, it represents a rise of 60% - 124,000 people - from the beginning of October, when the figure dipped to 206,000. 

These figures do not include around 211,492 people on the Live Register who qualify for Jobseekers' Benefit. 

The latest figures confirm the worsening unemployment crisis facing young people as the Level 5 restrictions impact on the labour market. 

Over 25.3% of those receiving the PUP this week - 83,500 - are aged under 25. That's up 12% - 9,021 - from 74,479 in just seven days. 

A further 23% of PUP recipients are aged 25-34, 21.7% are in the 35-44 age group, just over 17% are aged 45-54, while over-55s account for almost 13% of claimants. Claims rose in every county.

41% of PUP claimants are receiving the top rate of €350, 17.5% qualify for the €300 rate, with 18% eligible for the €250 rate. 

Around one in five (22.9%) are taking home the lowest PUP rate of €203. 

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Over 540,000 people are currently totally dependent on the State for income supports either through the PUP or Jobseekers. 

The sectors with the highest number of people receiving PUP supports are Accommodation and Food Service Activities (98,233), followed by Wholesale and Retail Trade (51,921) and Other Sectors - such as hairdressers and beauty salons (28,799).

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said supporting workers who lost their employment due to the pandemic remained a top Government priority.

"The increase in the number of people in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) was expected as a result of the decision to move to Level 5 of restrictions.

She noted that this week's statistics also reveal that just over 4,000 people closed their PUP claim in the past seven days, with over 2,400 of these doing so because they were returning to work. 

"This shows that despite the Level 5 restrictions, individuals are continuing to return to work in some sectors which is to be welcomed."

The minister noted that apart from those receiving PUP, a further 3,700 people are receiving the €350 Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit, adding: ""As has been acknowledged publicly already, the fall in the number of cases of Covid-19 in recent days in encouraging.

"This is a credit to the Irish people who are clearly responding to the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET)."