UK jobless claims surge almost 70% on coronavirus
LONDON, May 19, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – The number of Britons claiming
jobless benefit soared nearly 70 percent in April to 2.1 million, as
the coronavirus devastated the labour market, official data showed
Unemployment claims surged by a record 856,000 from March, the
Office for National Statistics said in a statement.
The ONS added that the number of unemployed jumped by 50,000 to 1.3
million people in the first 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 Tuesday.
Britain imposed a lockdown on March 23 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 eight million jobs at a cost of o11.1
billion ($13.4 billion, 12.2 billion euros) to the taxpayer, the
Treasury said 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 percent 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
The British unemployment rate meanwhile stood at 3.9 percent in the
first quarter, compared with 3.8 percent a year earlier.
Analysts stressed that the labour market would deteriorate even
more sharply in the coming months.
Andrew Wishart at research group Capital Economics said the UK
unemployment rate would hit 6.0 percent in the coming months” and
could reach as high as 9.0 percent.