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UK unemployment figures paint a bleak picture

15 December 2020

Joanne Frew, head of employment at DWF, comments on the ONS employment figures.

"The latest ONS statistics show the number of payroll employees has fallen by 819,000 since February 2020, with the steepest decline at the start of the pandemic. The number of redundancies reached a high of 370,000 between August and October 2020, an increase of a record 217,000 on the quarter. As employers expected the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to end on 31 October 2020 and planned accordingly, it is unsurprising that we have seen significant job losses. It is important to note that the figures do not take account of the impact of the second lockdown throughout November. We can also predict further lockdowns in January 2021 following the relaxation of restrictions over Christmas which will inevitably lead to an increase in unemployment.

"In addition, the ONS has reported that the hospitality sector has suffered the worse job losses, followed by retail. Darren Morgan, the ONS's director of economic statistics, reported that the hospitality sector accounted for nearly a third of the 819,000 job losses since February 2020. With 34 million people under the toughest tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday 16 December, the challenges facing these sectors are not going to ease any time soon.

"Although the figures paint a bleak picture, the combination of extended government support and the promise of an effective vaccine should help to instil confidence in employers going forward. However, at the close of an already incredibly challenging year, employers are also faced with the impact of Brexit. A top priority for employers whilst the government support is still in place will be to focus on business continuity and labour supply."

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