UK Employment Tumbles by 220,000, Biggest Quarterly Fall Since 2009

Daniel Fowler
August 11, 2020

Some 220,000 people in the United Kingdom lost their jobs between April and June - the largest such quarterly decline since May-July 2009 during the trough of the global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, between January to March and April to June, total actual weekly hours worked fell by a record 191.3 million, or 18.4%, to 849.3 million hours.

The number of people claiming benefits because they are unemployed or underemployed jumped to 2.7 million, a almost 117% increase since March.

The official jobless rate remained static at 3.9% which the number-crunchers said could be explained by the fact that many workers could not be classed as unemployed because they were not actively looking for a job.

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

"Instead, it's likely that more people will move to flexible shift work that still offers the benefits and protections of traditional full time employment, while enabling them to work for multiple employers".

The ONS estimates that 7.5 million people - more than a quarter of the workforce - were temporarily away from work in recent months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the economy will still have more "bumpy months" ahead.

That represented, the ONS said, the first negative growth in regular nominal earnings since records began in 2001, Sky News reported.

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High streets have been among those worst hit by the surge in job losses.

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, said the figures showed a "dramatic deterioration" in the employment prospects for young people, part-time workers and older workers in particular.

However, there was a small increase in job vacancies in the three months to July as small businesses took on staff to meet coronavirus guidelines, the ONS said.

In a warning of a potentially bigger rise in job losses, separate tax data for July showed the number of staff on company payrolls had fallen by 730,000 since March.

Experts are anxious 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. Most of that was weighted towards the early days of lockdown.

The figures were released hours before the Treasury confirmed businesses had secured government-backed loans of nearly £52bn to date with 9.6 million workers' pay supported through the Job Retention Scheme.

"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.

The big question is how many of those furloughed workers will be kept on payroll after October as many parts of the economy are still operating way below potential. "Although the government has launched the Job Retention Bonus to help incentivise employers to bring employees back from furlough, longer-term strategies will need to be implemented to help tackle unemployment", she said.

British finance minister Rishi Sunak said the figures showed the government's support programmes were working but job losses were inevitable.

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