Jobs in the UK have seen the largest quarterly drop since the 2009 global financial crisis, according to data released by the national statistics agency Tuesday.
Early indicators showed that the number of employees on payroll in July dropped by 730,000 as compared to March, when the COVID-19 crisis began, the Office of National Statistics said.
Data showed about 33 million people were employed in Britain between April and June – an annual jump of 113,000, but a drop of 220,000 from the prior quarter.
“The alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder. Ministers must act now to protect and create jobs,” said Frances O’Grady, general secretary at the Trades Union Congress, which represents the majority of UK trade unions.
“That means extending the job retention scheme for businesses with a viable future who can’t operate because of virus restrictions. It means investing in the jobs we need for the future in green industries, social care and across the public sector. And it means ensuring a decent safety net is in place to help those who lose their jobs get back on their feet.”
Data showed the UK’s headline unemployment rate stood at 3.9% for April to June, the period that covered the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, unchanged from a previous reading.
But the figures mask the true picture of job losses, as many employees were temporarily safeguarded under the UK government’s furlough scheme that supported wage continuity.
Economists at consultancy Capital Economics predict the unemployment rate will reach its peak at around 7% by mid-2021.
“The cracks evident in the latest batch of labour market data are likely to soon turn into a chasm with the unemployment rate rising from 3.9% to around 7.0% by mid-2021,” Capital Economics said in a report.
The UK’s claimant count, or those who applied for unemployment benefits, more than doubled, rising by about 117% to 2.7 million in July from March 2020.
“A large number of people are estimated to be temporarily away from work, including furloughed workers; approximately 7.5 million in June 2020, with over 3 million of these being away for three months or more,” the ONS said.
“New analysis shows that the youngest workers, oldest workers and those in manual or elementary occupations, were those most likely to be temporarily away from paid work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”