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Pain now, but economic hope for second half of 2021

WITH the third wave of the pandemic having crushed economic activity, there is a general malaise and many businesses having closed, there is a sense of malaise and pessimism in many quarters right now.

However, with a vaccine being distributed there are hopes that normal life will resume later this year and at Tuesday’s meeting of Shannon Municipal District, Clare County Council’s Director of Economic Development Liam Conneally said there is genuine cause for optimism about what may happen in the latter months of 2021. “In November and December and so far in January the number of planning applications lodged have been up on the last number of years and that is a good barometer of economic activity,” he said.

Mr Conneally said that there is reason to “look forward to quarter three and quarter four with a degree of optimism,” and added that “the construction industry normally leads out on this”.

Mr Conneally said that there are large projects being progressed in the Shannon area and that the County Council are providing as much assistance as possible.

While there may be some cause for optimism in the months to come, the number of people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment has increased significantly in Clare and nationally. In Clare the number receiving the payment was 8,261 on January 12, but by Tuesday of this week, January 19, it had risen to 9,376, an increase of 13.5% in seven days.

The county also had 2,132 people who have been medically certified for receipt of a Covid-19 related enhanced illness benefit up to January 19. This figure was up from 1,963 a week earlier and 1,775 two weeks ago.

Across the country this week has seen 459,921 people receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, an increase of more than 15% on the previous week.

In a statement this week the Department of Social Protection said, “, “The sector with the highest number of people receiving PUP this week is Accommodation and Food Service activities (110,351). This is followed by Wholesale and Retail Trade (73,382) and Construction (56,217).

“The sector that has seen the largest increase this week is Construction with 56,217 people receiving a PUP payment tomorrow. This has increased from 32,152 recipients last week which is attributed to the Level 5 restrictions imposed on the sector on the evening of Friday, 9th January.

“The Wholesale and Retail sector has seen the number of PUP recipients increase from 65,300 last week to 73,382 this week. This is followed by the Manufacturing sector, which has increased by 6,156 to 25,614 recipients in the last week.

“In the past week, some 5,042 people closed their claim for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment stating that they are returning to work.”

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said,“This week’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment figures are a stark reminder to all of us of the impact that Covid-19 is having on so many individuals, families and businesses as well as our communities right across the country. The last time we had this level of claims for PUP was in June 2020 as the country was beginning to emerge from the initial period of restrictions last Summer.

“Since last March over 14 million payments have been issued under the Pandemic Unemployment Payment with over 820,000 people receiving support under the scheme. To put this in context – it is the equivalent of processing over seven years’ worth of jobseekers applications in 10 months. “The total cost of PUP to date is over €5.3 Billion.”

Owen Ryan