The number of people receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has fallen slightly for the first time since it was launched on 16 March.

589,000 people will receive the €350 payment this week, a decrease of 9,000 compared to last week.

However, it is believed that some of the fall is due to employers re-hiring workers to avail of the Government's Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS).

This week's PUP payments will cost €206.3m, with 8,700 receiving the payment for the first time.

These payments are in addition to the 214,700 people on the Live Register receiving 'standard' Jobseeker's Benefit of €203 per week at the end of April.

Between PUP and Jobseeker's recipients, 803,700 people are now totally dependent on the State for their income.

In addition, 456,200 people are having their wages subsidised by the State under the TWSS - up 28,800 since 30 April. Over 53,000 employers have now registered for the scheme administered by the Revenue Commissioners.

When the 456,200 on the TWSS are factored in, then almost 1.3 million people are now fully or partly dependent on the State for income support - out of a workforce of 2.3 million.

The top sectors for PUP claims are accommodation and food services (125,700), wholesale and retail (88.400) and construction (78,100).

However, the number of claimants in each sector is slightly down on last week, and the figures are expected to fall further over the coming weeks as construction re-opens in the first phase of the Government's road map to recovery.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said the Government now had a very clear view of the "peak" of the challenge they were currently facing, adding: "Hopefully the direction of travel from here on will continue to be positive."

While the Minister anticipates a fall-off in unemployment claims as the economy gradually reopens, she also sounded a  cautionary note.

"However, there won't be a quick return to work for everybody and the nature of the virus is such that we won't be able to switch the economy instantly back on in the same manner as we put it into sleep mode," she said.

She pledged that her department would continue to support those who cannot go back to work, while simultaneously working on post-pandemic plans to "retrain, re-energise and re-employ all those who have been disrupted by this unprecedented health emergency".

Excluding duplicate payments, a total of 682,000 PUP or Jobseeker's claims have been processed since 16 March.

Unlike for the Jobseeker's Benefit, PUP claimants do not have to prove they have been let go by their employer, but the department reiterated that it carries out pre-and post-payment checks on eligibility.

To date, over 95,000 people have contacted the Department to close their Pandemic Unemployment Payment, with many doing so because employers are re-hiring people under the TWSS.

42,000 people are medically certified to receive the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit, with the majority doing so having being advised to self-isolate on a precautionary basis, rather than being actually diagnosed with the virus.