TUC says “alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder”, after the release of the latest ONS data on unemployment shows a significant drop in employment since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Office for National Statistics today released new unemployment figures which show that nearly three-quarters of a million jobs have been lost in the British economy since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.
The official figures reveal that 730,289 fewer people were receiving a wage from an employer in July compared with March, when Boris Johnson announced the “stay at home” order.
The grim employment figures come on the eve of confirmation that the UK economy is officially in recession, as it is expected to be announced tomorrow (Wednesday 12 August) that there has been two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. It also follows a raft of redundancy announcements from large companies and household names such as WH Smith and British Airways.
Responding to the ONS figures, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called on the government to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and investing in green industries and the public sector to help protect and create jobs.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder. Ministers must act now to protect and create jobs.
“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.
“The more people in work the faster our economy will recover from this crisis.”
The government’s job retention scheme – which has allowed workers to be placed on furlough throughout the lockdown – is due to end in October, which is predicted to lead to a huge increase in job losses as businesses struggle in the “new normal” of reduced footfall and social distancing.
Treasury figures also released today showed that 1.2 million employers have put a total of 9.6 million workers on furlough leave at a cost to the taxpayer of £33.8 billion.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s labour market stats make it clear that our unprecedented support measures, including the furlough and self-employed support schemes, are working to safeguard millions of jobs and livelihoods that could otherwise have been lost.
“I’ve always been clear that we can’t protect every job, but through our Plan for Jobs we have a clear plan to protect, support and create jobs to ensure that nobody is left without hope.”