A woman wearing a face mask crosses the road in front of the Bank of England at what would normally be the morning rush hour in the City of London on March 17, 2020. The UK financial circle is extremely calm after asking government people refrain from all essential travel and activities yesterday.
Employment in the UK has seen its biggest quarterly decline in more than a decade, according to official data released on Tuesday.
The Office for National Statistics said estimates show that 32.92 million people were at work between April and June, 113,000 more than a year ago but 220,000 less than the previous quarter.
This decline in employment, which affected men and women, was the largest quarterly decline from May to July 2009.
Data for July showed that the number of employees on payroll fell by 730,000 compared to March, the ONS said.
“Survey data show that employment is declining and unemployment is largely unchanged due to rising economic inactivity, with people out of work but not currently looking for work,” she added.
The overall unemployment rate for April-June was 3.9%, covering the UK blockade period that began in late March. However, the data are unlikely to show the true extent of job losses caused by the coronavirus due to the UK government’s “furlough” scheme, which saw it subsidizing workers’ wages in an effort to stop employers from making job cuts.
Under the work program, the government has paid up to 80% of workers’ monthly wages of up to 2,500 ($ 3,272), but it has said companies need to share more of the scheme’s costs since August.
Responding to the data, UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said the government was unable to save all jobs affected by the coronavirus crisis.
“I have always been clear that we can not protect every job, but … we have a clear plan to protect, support and create jobs to ensure that no one is left without hope,” he said.
Recent data show that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits reached 2.7 million in July 2020, an increase of 116.8% since March.
“A large number of people are estimated to be temporarily away from work, including exhausted workers; approximately 7.5 million in June 2020 with over 3 million of them leaving for three months or more,” the ONS said.
“New analyzes show that younger workers, older workers, and those in manual or elementary occupations were the ones likely to be temporarily away from paid work during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).”
The CBI, a British group of business lobbies, said the data “show the devastating mark left on the job market by the coronavirus crisis”.
“With the UK under tight blockade measures to upgrade the virus in the quarter to June, it is expected to go to work and working hours are expected,” said Matthew Percival, director of the CBI for people and skills.
“More positively, there is a small increase in job vacancies, especially in the hospitality sector as restrictions eased,” he added.