Huge spike in numbers out of work as coronavirus crisis takes toll

PUBLISHED: 09:06 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:06 19 May 2020

Jobless claimants have soared amid the coronavirus crisis, official figures show  Picture: MARTIN RICKETT/PA

Jobless claimants have soared amid the coronavirus crisis, official figures show Picture: MARTIN RICKETT/PA

UK jobless claims soared by more than 69% in April – despite the introduction of the government’s furlough scheme, official figures reveal.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) said unemployment claims under Universal Credit surged by 856,000 in the month from March to 2.1m.

Early estimates for April 2020 indicate the number of paid employees fell by 1.6% compared to March, as firms began to feel a greater impact from the lockdown, government statisticians said.

MORE – Return to work after furlough won’t be simple, expert warns

At the same time, the number of job vacancies also fell dramatically, with the empty posts in the three months to April diving by 170,000 to 637,000, compared to the previous quarter.

Unemployment rose by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March, the ONS said, as the impact of the pandemic first started to be felt in the UK.

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Deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: “While only covering the first weeks of restrictions, our figures show Covid-19 is having a major impact on the labour market.

“In March employment held up well, as furloughed workers still count as employed, but hours worked fell sharply in late March, especially in sectors such as hospitality and construction.

“Through April, though, there were signs of falling employment as real-time tax data show the number of employees on companies’ payrolls fell noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality again falling steepest.”

Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: “Even before lockdown, coronavirus was threatening to take the shine off the UK’s sterling jobs record, and initial estimates for April don’t make for easy reading.

“It’s clear that without the government’s furlough scheme, the picture would have rapidly deteriorated even further.”

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