The number of people receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has fallen to 515,700 - a reduction of 27,400 on the same point last week. 

For the first time since its introduction, more people are in jobs subsidised by the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme than are receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. 

At the peak of the Covid-19 related unemployment surge, 598,000 people were claiming the PUP. 

However since then, over 80,000 people have returned to work as the economy gradually reopens - a drop of around 15%. 

Of the 515,700 receiving the PUP, around 22,200 have notified the department that they have now returned to work. 

However, while the bill to the exchequer for the PUP welfare payment is diminishing, the number of workers having their pay subsidised by the state through the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme has hit a new record of around 520,900. 

This is the first time the number of those in subsidised employment has exceeded those on the PUP welfare payment. 

Today's figures show the main sectors where people are returning to work are Construction (6,500), Wholesale/Retail/Motor Repair (3,700), Accommodation and Food (2,000) and Manufacturing (1,900). 

A total of 48,900 people have been medically certified to receive the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit, either because they have contracted the illness, or because they have been advised to self-isolate on a precautionary basis. 

However, over the past week, only 200 new claimants availed of the scheme. Only 14 of those have actually been diagnosed with coronavirus, while the remainder are out of work on a precautionary basis.

Employment Affairs and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has said that the sustainability of pandemic welfare supports will have to be built into a future programme for government.

Ms Doherty also said that people who could not go back to work because of childcare or transport issues, would continue to be supported by the state's welfare subsidy schemes.

She said the PUP scheme currently runs until 10 August and the TWSS will run for longer.

However, she said that in the absence of a vaccine, a future government will have to make a decision about how to move forward with the PUP and the TWSS.

Ms Doherty said she hopes to see the numbers of people returning to work grow over the coming weeks. 

However, Ms Doherty said that we not going to be able to have the same number of people on public transport to allow for social distancing. 

She said that NPHET will continue to consider the revised advice from the WHO in relation to making face masks compulsory on public transport, adding that a public heath campaign with guidance on wearing of masks has been widely circulated online.