The number of people in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has fallen to 114,600 this week, a drop of 25,526.

20,000 of the decreases is made up of students returning to college, who since last week have no longer been entitled to claim the PUP.

In the last week the rates of payment have also been cut by €50 as part of the Government's plan to gradually wind down the scheme.

The latest drop means that the numbers claiming the payment have fallen by nearly 500,000 since the peak in May of last year.

In total, €29.65m will be paid out in PUP payments this week.

Once again, the largest decreases of more than 7,000 has been recorded in the accommodation and food services sector, as it gradually gets back on its feet.

Big decreases were also seen in the wholesale and retail trade and in administrative and support services activities.

52,569 of this week's recipients are women and 62,043 are men.

A further 179,761 people remained on the Live Register at the end of last month.

"The economy is now substantially reopened and it is really encouraging to see businesses actively advertising for and hiring new staff," said Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys.

"The PUP was always a temporary emergency support and as the emergency phase of the pandemic has now passed, it is the right time to start the process of winding the payment down," the Minister said.

Further cuts in the rates of the PUP will take place in November and in February of next year, at which point all recipients will be receiving the €203 maximum jobseekers payment.

The Government has said the process of transitionining those in receipt of the PUP over to jobseekers benefit or allowance, as they reach the €203 payment level, will not begin until after October 22, when the bulk of the remaining restrictions on activity are due to be lifted.