Unemployment: 730,000 jobs lost since coronavirus lockdown started

Andrew Cummings
August 11, 2020

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 stable jobless rate is largely due to a government salary support scheme that will end in October, a cliff-edge moment that many economists think will lead to an nearly immediate doubling in unemployment.

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

The long-established United Kingdom retailer Debenhams announced plans on Tuesday to cut a further 2,500 jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite praising the performance of 124 stores that have reopened since the end of the lockdown. The figures also showed that a further 81,000 people fell off company payrolls last month, giving a total of 730,000 since March, when the coronavirus lockdown began.

"Unfortunately, the end of the furlough scheme will present a cliff-edge, statistically and economically, for those now relying on government support to make up their wages", he warned.

"The trading environment is clearly a long way from returning to normal and we have to ensure our store costs are aligned with realistic expectations", the company said in a statement emailed to Euronews.

The ONS said employment is weakening and unemployment is largely unchanged at 3.9 percent because of increases in economic inactivity, with people out of work but not now looking for work.

That's according to figures released by the UK's Office for National Statistics - or ONS.

The unemployment rate unexpectedly held at 3.9%.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the unemployment rate to rise to 4.2%. Last week, the Bank of England forecast the jobless rate would hit 7.5% at the end of this year.

"The labour market continues recent trends, with a fall in employment and significantly reduced hours of work as many people are furloughed", said Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics.

Self-employed workers took a major hit as their numbers fell by a record amount, while the amount of employees rose.

Those claiming unemployment benefits, which includes universal credit and jobseeker's allowance, rose about 117% to 2.7 million in July from March 2020.

Pay fell by the most in more than 10 years in the April-June period, down 1.2%, reflecting how workers on the job retention scheme receive 80% of their salary.

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.

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