UK payrolls shrink by 649,000 jobs in lockdown

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A report today by the BBC highlights just how much impact the pandemic has had on the economy.

The number of workers on UK company payrolls fell by 649,000 between March and June, official figures indicate.

The overall jobless rate was unchanged but there are 47,000 more young people unemployed than there were a year ago.

Unemployment has not surged, as many 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.

The headline unemployment rate hasn’t budged since the lockdown was introduced. It stayed at 3.9% between March and May, unchanged on the previous three months.
The number of people claiming work-related benefits last month – including the unemployed – is also marginally lower at 2.6 million.

Why is the jobless rate not rising?

But because of the effect of the furlough scheme on the employment market, analysts say the number of hours worked per week is currently a truer reflection of the impact of the coronavirus crisis. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that since the start of the pandemic, total weekly hours worked in the UK had fallen by a record 175.3 million, or 16.7%, to 877.1 million hours.

Number of hours worked – “This was the largest annual decrease since estimates began in 1971, with total hours dropping to its lowest level since May to July 1997,” the ONS added. The number of Britons on payrolls – which means people employed by a company and does not include the self-employed – fell by 2.2% in June compared with March.

There are not many jobs around for anyone.

Vacancies in the UK in April to June 2020 are at the lowest level since the survey began in April to June 2001, at an estimated 333,000.

“This is 23% lower than the previous record low in April to June 2009,” the ONS said.

The ONS added that a larger than usual number of those losing their jobs were not currently searching for another one and were therefore economically inactive rather than unemployed, while some longer-term unemployed people had stopped looking for work.

A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce said 29% of businesses expected to cut jobs in the next three months. It called for a reduction in employers’ National Insurance contributions to protect businesses and jobs. The government’s spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has warned that in the worst-case scenario, unemployment could rise to four million.

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