UK employment falls by 220,000 – the biggest drop in over a decade

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Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that employment in the UK fell by the largest amount since May-April 2009, between April and June.

Employment decreased by a total of 220,000 during Q2 according to ONS.

However, the unemployment rate remained at 3.9% – which has been the average total during the lockdown – but many workers in the UK still remained on furlough during this time period.

According to ONS, the youngest workers, oldest workers and those in manual occupations were the worst hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jonathan Athow, Deputy National Statistician at the ONS, said: “The groups of people most affected are younger workers, 24 and under, or older workers and those in more routine or less skilled jobs. This is concerning, as it’s harder for these groups to find a new job or get into a job as easily as other workers.”

Industry reaction

Matthew Percival, CBI Director for People and Skills, said: “This data shows the devastating mark left on the labour market by the coronavirus crisis. With the UK under stringent lockdown measures to contain the virus in the quarter to June, fall in jobs and hours worked is to be expected. More positively, there is a small rise in vacancies, particularly in the hospitality sector as restrictions were relaxed. As local lockdowns become more common, the nature of support for businesses and people will need to evolve. Stepping up test and trace efforts will also be essential to minimise disruption in affected areas.”

Louise Deverell-Smith, founder of Daisy Chain, the online recruitment platform matching parents with flexible job roles, said: “The latest ONS figures confirm what we already know. The pandemic has taken its toll on the economy and, unfortunately, the jobs market often carries much of the burden during a decline. It’s clear we face a challenging road to recovery ahead, but many businesses in the UK have already shown great creativity, flexibility and extraordinary resilience to overcome turbulent months.

“One undeniable fact is that remote and flexible working arrangements have helped to prevent further job losses and could also be a lifeline when rebuilding the economy. Flexible employment platform Daisy Chain saw employer sign-ups triple in June, and the increase in flexible roles being posted continued through July. It demonstrates a clear shift in approach to working arrangements from employers.

“The pandemic has shown that many 9-5, Monday-Friday office roles could be a thing of the past. Many jobs can and are being done remotely, part-time, or with compressed hours, alleviating some of the pressure on certain sectors and creating more job opportunities for others. Jobs and the economy are going to look a lot different in 12 months’ time, and now’s the perfect time to for businesses to get creative with how they approach talented individuals who are now, unfortunately, back on the jobs market.”

Mariano Mamertino, Senior Economist, LinkedIn, said: “Today’s figures are starting to show the very real cost of the pandemic on UK households, with companies being forced to cut jobs, reduce hours, pause bonuses or ask staff to take pay cuts. Falling wages and rising unemployment represent a big loss of potential spending power, and cast doubt on how quickly the economy can continue to recover. While LinkedIn’s latest data shows that hiring in the UK is improving, it is still well below pre-Covid levels, and the labour market continues to be very challenging. To help people who are looking for work, LinkedIn has made hundreds of free learning resources available, so that people can build their skills and improve their chances of finding work.”

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