UK has 819,000 fewer paid employees since coronavirus crisis began


The latest job statistics show 819,000 fewer people in payrolled employment since the start of the coronavirus crisis in the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the estimated figure, using PAYE (pay as you earn) data from HM Revenue & Customs, covered November as England entered its second national lockdown amid tougher COVID-19 restrictions UK-wide.

Its wider figures also showed a rise in the jobless rate to 4.9% in October from 4.8% the previous month – less than he 5.1% economists had expected – as the clock ticked down to the original conclusion of the government’s furlough scheme.

The Job Retention Scheme was extended at the end of October, with the chancellor later confirming that wage support would continue until the end of March 2021.

The ONS said the pace of redundancies slowed in October but still hit a new record quarterly high of 370,000.

Its analysis suggested that the hospitality sector was worst affected.

The ONS figures were released as employers juggle continued disruption from coronavirus restrictions and uncertainty over the end of the Brexit transition period at the year’s end, in just over a fortnight’s time.

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Talks with the EU to potentially secure a free trade agreement, limiting tariffs and quotas facing employers, are continuing in Brussels.

Economists have warned that the twin threats to output risk the prospect of a double-dip recession ahead while the Bank of England has estimated the jobless rate will peak at 7.75% in the second quarter of 2021.

There was some better news in the ONS figures concerning wages as average growth in pay, excluding bonuses, ticked up slightly to 2.8% on an annual basis.

There were also 547,000 job vacancies in the UK – a rise of 110,000 on the previous quarter.

ONS director of economic statistics, Darren Morgan, said: “Overall we have seen a continuation of recent trends, with a
further weakening in the labour market.

“The latest monthly tax numbers show over 800,000 fewer employees on the payroll in November than in February, with new analysis finding that over a third of this fall came from the hospitality sector.

“In the three months to October, employment was still falling sharply and unemployment was rising, but the number of people neither working nor looking for work was little changed.”

Minister for employment, Mims Davies, responded: “It’s been a truly challenging year for many families but with a vaccine beginning to roll out with more perhaps to follow and the number of job vacancies increasing there is hope on the horizon for 2021.”

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