The number of people being made redundant in the UK reached a record high in October amid the second coronavirus wave, new data has revealed.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday that redundancies rose to 370,000 in the three months leading up to October as jobs were cut in the run-up to the withdrawal of the government’s furlough support scheme which had been slated to close at the end of the month. The wage subsidy scheme was then extended until the end of March 2021 as rapid acceleration in COVID-19 infections prompted a second national lockdown in England and tighter controls elsewhere in the UK.
ONS data revealed employment has fallen at its fastest pace in a decade. There are now 819,000 fewer people on UK company payrolls than there were in February when the pandemic first hit, the employment having risen to 4.9% in October.
Meanwhile, the number of people claiming unemployment- and low pay-related benefits reached 2.7 million, an increase of 64,300.
Worst affected by the rise in redundancies were young men aged between 18 and 24, with unemployment levels in this bracket having risen by 39% since February. The worst-affected sectors were hospitality and retail, which have respectively shed around 297,000 and 160,000 jobs this year.
Business chiefs have warned that the rise in unemployment in the UK is likely to accelerate further as London and other parts of the UK prepare to enter Tier 3 of England’s regional lockdown system, which will see pubs, restaurants, cinemas, museums and other venues shut down from Wednesday. This will mark the third time these venues have been forced to close since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year.
“While the roll-out of the vaccine has buoyed employers, it won’t automatically undo the damage done to their businesses by the pandemic,” warned Tej Parikh, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, who suggested that cutting employer national insurance contributions could help their cashflow troubles and keep the furlough scheme’s new March wind-down date from becoming another financial cliff-edge.