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Nearly 730,000 people lost their jobs in lockdown

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Almost three quarters of a million people have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, the official unemployment rate is not rising. It remained unchanged at 3.9% in June, reflecting an increase in people who had given up looking for work and so were not consider to be unemployed.

Unemployment measures people without a job who have been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and are available to start work within the next two weeks.

Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “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. In addition, there are still a large number of people who say they are working no hours and getting zero pay.

“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.”

Many people were taken off payrolls as large parts of the economy ground to a halt March when lockdown began. But 81,000 jobs were lost in the past month alone.

The decrease in employment was the largest quarterly decrease since May to July 2009.

A large number of people are estimated to be temporarily away from work, including furloughed workers. In June approximately 7.5 million people were classed as being temporarily away from work with more than 3 million of these being away for three months or more.

Paula Gardner, director of The Redundancy Recovery Hub, said: “Sadly the growing number of people losing their jobs is only part of the story. The other, equally concerning part, is how they are being made redundant. Increasingly, we’re hearing stories of employees being made redundant by text, which is about as insensitive as it gets.

“People who are being made redundant need to retain as much of their confidence as possible, so it’s essential that employers treat them with dignity and kindness in order for their sense of self-worth to remain intact.

“In many cases, right now, this simply isn’t happening. Covid-19 is being used as a pretext by some employers to jettison certain employees with little, if any, humanity.”

Many experts are worried that the full extent of the UK’s jobs situation has been hidden by the Government’s furlough scheme, which covers 80% of the salaries of staff who couldn’t work because of lockdown.

Karim Yousfi, chief global strategist at Audacity Capital, said: “The UK’s unemployment rate is still living in an alternate, pre-Covid reality. But the markets have long since learned to ignore the implausibly breezy, official jobless rate of 3.9%.

“Three key numbers tell the true story of the pandemic’s impact on the UK labour market. The number of paid employees has shrunk by almost three quarters of a million since March, and a further 7.5 million Britons are in a limbo the statisticians describe euphemistically as ‘away from work’.

“A great proportion of these people are still having the bulk of their wages paid by the British state. But as the UK’s furlough scheme is phased out over the coming months, those whose jobs have ceased to exist will be forced into the ranks of the unemployed.”