Unemployment: 730,000 jobs lost since coronavirus lockdown started

11 August 2020, 07:26 | Updated: 11 August 2020, 07:34

High streets have been among those worst hit by the surge in job losses
High streets have been among those worst hit by the surge in job losses. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The number of UK workers on payrolls fell by 730,000 between March and July as a further 81,000 jobs were lost last month, in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said employment decreased by 220,000 on the quarter.

This was the largest quarterly decrease since May to July 2009, it added.

Unemployment has not surged as much as feared, because large numbers of firms have put employees on the government-backed furlough scheme.

But economists say the full effect on employment will not be felt until the scheme ends in October.

However, the new figures do not mean that the people in question do not want a job, said Jonathan Athow, the ONS's deputy national statistician for economic statistics.

"Figures from our main survey show there has been a rise in people without a job and not looking for one, though wanting to work," he said.

"In addition, there are still a large number of people who say they are working no hours and getting zero pay."

He added: "The labour market continues recent trends, with a fall in employment and significantly reduced hours of work as many people are furloughed.

"The falls in employment are greatest among the youngest and oldest workers, along with those in lower-skilled jobs.

"Vacancies numbers began to recover in July, especially in small businesses and sectors such as hospitality, but demand for workers remains depressed."

The worst of the job losses came in the beginning of the lockdown months. Many people were taken off payrolls as large parts of the economy ground to a halt in late March when Prime Minister Boris Johnson told everyone to only leave their homes to exercise or get food.

Between March and June UK workers on company payrolls dropped by 649,000, according to ONS data released last month. Most of that was weighted towards the early days of lockdown.

Experts are worried that the full extent of Britain's jobs problems has been hidden by the Government's furlough scheme, which promised to cover 80% of the salaries of staff who could not work because of lockdown.

These furloughed workers are still considered to be unemployed, but many worry they will have no job to come back to when the scheme winds down.

The furlough scheme ends in October, though the Government has promised a £1,000 per employee bonus to any company that brings back furloughed staff and keeps paying them until January.

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