Lockdown has 'major impact' as UK unemployment increases by 50,000

19 May 2020, 07:21

UK unemployment has increased by 50,000
UK unemployment has increased by 50,000. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Unemployment increased by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March with the lockdown having a "major impact", official figures showed.

The Office for National Statistics has released their first set of employment rates covering the first week of the coronavirus lockdown.

The unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9 per cent, slightly up on the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.

It also announced that early estimates for April 2020 indicate that the number of paid employees fell by 1.6% compared to March, as firms began to feel a greater impact from the lockdown.

Job vacancies also significantly decreased, with the number of empty posts in the three months to April diving by 170,000 to 637,000, compared to the previous quarter.

Jonathan Athow, the deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said of the latest unemployment figure: "While only covering the first weeks of restrictions, our figures show Covid-19 is having a major impact on the labour market.

"In March employment held up well, as furloughed workers still count as employed, but hours worked fell sharply in late March, especially in sectors such as hospitality and construction.

"Through April, though, there were signs of falling employment as real-time tax data show the number of employees on companies' payrolls fell noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality again falling steepest."

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Economist Sir Christopher Pissarides warned hours of work figures "fell catastrophically" while vacancies figures showed the labour market "more or less stopped functioning".

The London School of Economic academic said employment figures are "not as bad", but added: "Hours of work figures fell catastrophically.

"And also vacancies fell which shows the labour market more or less stopped functioning at the beginning of the lockdown."

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