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Ireland sees COVID-19 jobless claims rising by 50,000

DUBLIN, Oct 7 (Reuters) - The number of people claiming temporary Irish jobless benefits is set to rise to around 250,000 from just over 200,000 as a result of a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Wednesday.

While the government rejected a call by health chiefs to enter a second national lockdown on Monday, it moved all counties up to Level 3 of the five-step confinement plan, shutting indoor restaurant and pub service for three weeks.

Ireland introduced the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) in March for those temporarily laid off and claimants rose for the first time since May two weeks ago when Dublin and Donegal moved to Level 3, before falling back this week.

Claims stood at 205,000 when the nationwide tightening of restrictions began, having hit a lockdown peak of 600,000 in early May. Ireland’s unemployment rate, including those temporarily and permanent out of work, is stuck just below 15%.

“As of close of business last night we had received 17,000 new claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment,” Martin told parliament.

“Given the move to Level 3, additional claims can be expected and a rough estimate based on prior experience in Dublin and Donegal is that about 40,000 to 50,000 claims could emerge this week.”

Martin added that the government would “clearly” need to keep supports in place beyond the current April expiry of the PUP scheme. The government is also subsidising the wages of another 360,000 employees on a separate scheme. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin, Editing by William Maclean)