819,000 fewer employees across the UK since March due to impact of COVID-19

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS)has today released figures that show that 819,000 fewer people are in employment since March – the start of the coronavirus crisis in the UK.

The unemployment rate has risen to 4.9% in October – up from 4.8% in September.

The Job Retention Scheme was extended at the end of October, however, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already confirmed that a form of support would remain in place until April next year. As a result, redundancies did decrease in October but still hit a record quarterly high of more than 370,000.

ONS Director of Economic Statistics, Darren Morgan, said: “Overall we have seen a continuation of recent trends, with a further weakening in the labour market. The latest monthly tax numbers show over 800,000 fewer employees on the payroll in November than in February, with new analysis finding that over a third of this fall came from the hospitality sector.

“In the three months to October, employment was still falling sharply and unemployment was rising, but the number of people neither working nor looking for work was little changed.”

Industry reaction

Paul Naha-Biswas, CEO and Founder at recruitment tech platform Sixley said: “Today’s ONS unemployment statistics bring us back down to earth after the giddy heights of ‘V-day’ last week. And, while the end of the pandemic may be in sight, these figures serve as a further reminder that the economic emergency is still underway.

“Yet, as we look to 2021, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. The economic impact of the second lockdown was far smaller than the last, and job opportunities are beginning to emerge across the country, which is unsurprising given the crop of experienced, talented candidates available.

“With more jobs available, we should all look out for relevant opportunities for friends or family and share these across our network. Anyone in two minds about doing this should remember that recommending contacts for roles can help them stand out in a crowded job landscape and reduce the investment of time and money for a business.

“As the country begins its long economic recovery from COVID-19, we should focus our attention on the labour market: working together and helping one another find work to alleviate the stresses and financial challenges of unemployment.”

James Reed Chairman of REED commented: “With the latest ONS labour market statistics showing an increase in unemployment coinciding with the original end date of the furlough scheme, it’s clear to see the challenges the coronavirus pandemic poses for jobs across the UK.

“Having said many times over that the furlough scheme would end in October, the Chancellor’s decision to extend it has helped to keep many in employment and kept the ONS’s latest unemployment figures relatively low considering.

“The jobs market has been through one of its most turbulent periods in recent history, but in the face of adversity, the economy has shown great flexibility, dynamism and entrepreneurialism which have helped improve the economic outlook as we progress into 2021. As Brexit trade talks near a conclusion, the UK can draw on its experiences to make a success of our new relationship with the EU, regardless of whether or not we secure a deal from January 1st, 2021.

“I’m optimistic that we are moving towards a much better situation for jobs and, with the vaccine now being rolled out, we are a few months away from the economy fully opening up and a thriving jobs market once again.

“Looking at REED’s own jobs data from November, we saw the highest number of new jobs added to reed.co.uk since back in February. Every region from the UK apart from Scotland is seeing month on month increases despite the nationwide lockdown. If you are looking for work as we head into the new year, I urge you to be as open and flexible to any opportunities which may be available to you.”

Matthew Percival, CBI Director of People and Skills, said: “Another bleak set of figures this month, with a steep rise in unemployment and more redundancies showing households were still being hit hard, even ahead of England’s second national lockdown. While news of a vaccine has provided hope, many firms are still finding it difficult to operate within the toughest Covid restrictions. With millions more expected to be living under the toughest tier before the end of the week, the Government must continue to do what it can to help businesses get through winter.”

Jeremy Thomson Cook, Chief Economist at Equals Money commented: “Winter was always going to be a tough time for the jobs market given the year we’ve had so far. Rising jobless claimants, falling employment, and rising redundancies bear that out.

“The announcement that the hospitality sector lost the most employees in November coming the day after London – home to over a quarter of the UK’s total hospitality sector – was put into Tier 3, is a devastating blow to the industry, and the and juxtaposition will be lost on nobody.

“Jobs stats are difficult to interpret at the moment given the cryogenic pause that the furlough scheme provides for worker’s wages through the crisis, but today’s figures show that without ongoing support for businesses and employees, the news from the UK labour market would be nothing short of catastrophic.”

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