Unemployment total soars to three-year high as pandemic cuts hit hard

Time 10:26 am, October 13, 2020

Unemployment in the UK has jumped to its highest level for more than three years as the coronavirus crisis claimed jobs across the economy, according to official figures out today (Oct 13).

The number of people out of work rose quarter on quarter by 138,000 to 1.52m in the three months to August, said the Office for National Statistics.

It’s the highest jobless total since the beginning of 2017 and saw the unemployment rate rise to 4.5 per cent from 4.1 per cent in the previous three months.

The ONS added that the number of people on company payrolls dropped by 673,000 between March and September, despite edging up by 20,000 in September.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: ‘Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in those out of work and job-hunting but more people telling us they are not actively looking for work.

‘There has also been a stark rise in the number of people who have recently been made redundant.’

Experts have warned that unemployment will continue to rise as the furlough programme comes to an end this month.

There was, however, a small amount of cheer as the data showed recovery in vacancies, which surged by a record 144,000 to 488,000 between July and September.

Despite this, though, vacancies are still below pre-coronavirus levels and 40.5 per cent lower than a year earlier.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has insisted that the government’s Plan for Jobs will help protect employment and ‘ensure nobody is left without hope’.

But businesses and economists are bracing themselves for mounting job losses, in spite of the follow-up support initiatives.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: ‘The Job Support Scheme will do little to hold back the tide of redundancies.

‘We continue to expect the headline rate of unemployment to shoot up over the coming months.’

Meanwhile, Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: ‘With the furlough scheme unwinding, cash-strapped firms have been forced into difficult decisions about retaining their staff.

‘Demand remains weak, and as restrictions ramp up again, many businesses will be stretched when it comes to paying wage bills.

‘The Job Support Scheme may need to be beefed up if the government wants to avert further rises in unemployment.’

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