UK jobless claims surge by almost 70% on coronavirus

Agence France-Presse
UK jobless claims surge by almost 70% on coronavirus


(UPDATED) British unemployment claims surge by a record 856,000 to a total of 2.1 million people in April 2020

LONDON, United Kingdom (UPDATED) – The number of Britons claiming jobless benefits soared nearly 70% in April to 2.1 million, as the coronavirus devastated the labor market, official data showed on Tuesday, May 19.

Unemployment claims surged by a record 856,000 from March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

The ONS added that the number of unemployed jumped by 50,000 to 1.3 million people in the 1st quarter, compared with a year earlier.

More hardship

“I certainly won’t be able to protect every job, and every business…. There will be more hardship to come,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said in parliament on Tuesday.

Britain imposed a lockdown on March 23 in a bid to halt the spread of the virus, and launched a furlough jobs retention scheme under which the government is paying the bulk of wages.

UK furloughing is supporting 8 million jobs at a cost of £11.1 billion ($13.4 billion, 12.2 billion euros) to the taxpayer, the Treasury said on Tuesday.

But many workers have been laid off in recent weeks, with companies including British Airways preferring to axe thousands of staff despite the state helping to safeguard jobs.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak on Tuesday said the lockdown was “having a very significant impact on our economy. 

“We are likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen and of course that will have an impact on unemployment.”

He added, “The longer the recession, it is likely the degree of that scarring will be greater.”

Britain’s lockdown is just starting to be eased, while the government has said that under the furlough scheme it will continue to pay up to 80% of wages until October.

“It is not obvious that there will be an immediate bounceback” in the economy, Sunak said. 

“It takes time for people to get back to the habits they had, there are still restrictions in place.”

ONS statistician Jonathan Athow said Tuesday’s data also showed the number of employees on company payrolls had dropped “noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality” falling by the sharpest amount.

The British unemployment rate meanwhile stood at 3.9% in the 1st quarter, compared with 3.8% a year earlier.

Analysts stressed that the labor market would deteriorate even more sharply in the coming months.

Andrew Wishart at research group Capital Economics said the UK unemployment rate would hit 6% in the coming months” and could reach as high as 9%. –

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