The number of people claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment has fallen by almost half since the peak of the jobs crisis in early May, according to the latest figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

313,800 people will receive a PUP payment this week, down from 598,000 on 5th May, and a drop of 31,800 over the last seven days.

Reflecting the phased resumption of business activity,  in the past fortnight alone almost 100,000 people have closed their claims.  

Meanwhile, the Department is reminding PUP recipients that today is the final deadline for them to confirm their eligibility for the scheme, warning: "Failure to do so will affect their continued entitlement to receive a payment."

While today's further fall in the numbers receiving the PUP are good news for the government, the jobs crisis remains serious.

Apart from those receiving the PUP welfare support launched in March specifically to address the surge in job losses triggered by the pandemic, a further 220,900 remained on the Live Register at the end of June.

When the two are combined, 534,700 people are still entirely dependent on the state for their income.

A further 415,000 are having their earnings subsidised by the state through the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme - bringing the total number of those fully or partially dependent on the state for their income to 949,700.

The top three sectors in which employees are returning to work this week are Accommodation and Food Services, Wholesale and Retail Trade, Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles, and Construction.

Again, this week, the largest cohort returning to work is aged between 35 and 44.

The Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands Heather Humphreys said the figures demonstrated that increasing numbers of people are returning to work as businesses large and small throughout the entire country emerge from the Covid-19 health crisis.

She noted that she will be announcing initiatives under the government's July Stimulus package aimed specifically at enabling people to move back into employment, stimulate the economy and provide supports to businesses.

She stressed that a key element of the package would involve enhancing the supports available to people who have lost employment during the pandemic to assist them back into work as quickly as possible.

However, she also acknowledged the importance of compliance with public health advice.

"Now is not the time to become complacent and we must continue to follow the advice of NPHET," the Minister said.

This is the third week of the two tier payment structure, under which those who were earning less than E200 per week prior to the pandemic have had their PUP payment reduced from the flat rate of E350 to the Jobseekers rate of E203. The cut affected around a quarter of PUP recipients, and this week 87,500 will only get the E203 rate while 226,300 retain the E350  rate.

The applicable rate for the self-employed is based on their 2018 tax return to the Revenue Commissioners.

52,600 people have medically certified to receive the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit of E350 per week - though only around 7% (3,925) were actually diagnosed with the virus, with the remainder (48,675) advised to self-isolate on a precautionary basis.

Currently, there are 780 people receiving a Covid-19 related Illness Benefit payment from the Department.