Ireland's latest coronavirus curbs put 85,000 temporarily out of work

FILE PHOTO: A warning information notice is seen affixed to a town signpost indicating social distancing guidelines to comply with the government's highest level of lockdown restrictions, Level 5, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Foxford, Ireland, October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Around 85,000 more people have claimed temporary COVID-19 jobless benefits since Ireland moved to the highest level of restrictions to fight the virus two weeks ago, data showed on Tuesday.

Limiting restaurants to takeaway service and the closure of non-essential retail pushed claims up to almost 330,000, from 244,153 before the six-week measures were introduced on Oct. 22, but far below a peak of 600,000 during a stricter lockdown in May.

Recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) have been on the rise since hitting a post-lockdown low of 205,000 at the start of October. They are expected to have helped push Ireland’s unemployment rate up to around 20% in October, from 14.7% in September. October unemployment data is due on Wednesday.

The government has estimated that around 150,000 people will be temporarily laid off due to the new tighter restrictions.

The state was also subsidising the wages of around 340,000 workers at the end of September. The number of companies registered for the subsidy scheme has since risen to 40,500 from 38,200, data from the country’s tax authority showed.

In positives employment news, four companies announced the creation of 1,400 new jobs in Ireland on Monday, including 700 at Domino's Pizza DOM.L, whose sales have jumped as more people eat at home, and 300 roles at Pfizer PFE.N.

That will increase the U.S. pharmaceutical giant’s workforce in Ireland to above 4,000. Pfizer also plans to invest $300 million in expanding its manufacturing and laboratory capacity in the country, including a new development facility.

Ireland’s large foreign multinational sector, which accounted for around one in 10 jobs before the pandemic, has shielded the economy from the worst of the crisis.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Ireland has dropped over the past 10 days, fuelling hopes that retailers will be allowed to open their doors and restaurants and pubs will be able to serve limited numbers of people outdoors from Dec. 1.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Jon Boyle and Susan Fenton