UK employment down in biggest drop since 2009

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

The number of people in employment fell by the largest amount in more than a decade between April and June, new figures show.

Employment decreased by more than 220,000 during the last quarter - the biggest quarterly decrease in employment since May to July 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Estimates for April to June 2020 show 32.92 million people aged 16 and over in employment, 113,000 more than a year earlier but 220,000 fewer than the previous quarter.

Looking more closely at the decrease in employment by age, the youngest and oldest workers were hardest hit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Employment of those aged 16 to 24 decreased by 100,000 to 3.72 million, while those aged 65 and over decreased by a record 161,000 to 1.26 million.

This was partially offset by those aged 25 to 64, who increased by 41,000 on the quarter to 27.94 million.

Credit: PA

Figures also reveal the number of employees on payroll is down by 730,000 since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, between May and June.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a leap of 81,000 last month alone despite continuing support for employers via government loans and the Job Retention Scheme for furloughed workers.

The over-65s, the self-employed and part-time workers were especially badly hit.

Meanwhile, the number of hours worked by British employees has dropped to record lows.

Yet the official unemployment rate is not rising. To be counted among the unemployed, workers need to be actively looking for a new job, which many have decided not to do yet, the ONS said.

However, this does not mean that the people in question do not want a job, said Jonathan Athow, the ONS’s deputy national statistician for economic statistics.

Payroll figures reveal 730,000 people have lost their jobs since the start of the coronavirus lockdown. Credit: PA

Mr Athow said: "The labour market continues recent trends, with a fall in employment and significantly reduced hours of work as many people are furloughed.

"Figures from our main survey show there has been a rise in people without a job and not looking for one, though wanting to work. In addition, there are still a large number of people who say they are working no hours and getting zero pay. "

He added: "The falls in employment are greatest among the youngest and oldest workers, along with those in lower-skilled jobs. "

"Vacancies numbers began to recover in July, especially in small businesses and sectors such as hospitality, but demand for workers remains depressed."

The worst of the job losses came in the beginning of the lockdown months.

Experts are worried that the full extent of Britain’s jobs problems has been hidden by the Government’s furlough scheme. Credit: PA

Many people were taken off payrolls as large parts of the economy ground to a halt in late March when Prime Minister Boris Johnson told everyone to only leave their homes to exercise or get food.

Between March and June UK workers on company payrolls dropped by 649,000, according to ONS data released last month. Most of that was weighted towards the early days of lockdown.

Experts are worried that the full extent of Britain’s jobs problems has been hidden by the Government’s furlough scheme, which promised to cover 80% of the salaries of staff who could not work because of lockdown.

The ONS said that around 7.5 million people were estimated to be temporarily away from work in June this year, most of them on the Government's furlough scheme.

Around three million of these had been away for three months or more.

These furloughed workers are still considered to be unemployed, but many worry they will have no job to come back to when the scheme winds down.

The furlough scheme ends in October, though the Government has promised a £1,000 per employee bonus to any company that brings back furloughed staff and keeps paying them until January.

And around 300,000 people in the UK were away from work because of the pandemic but getting no pay last month, the statisticians revealed.