The UK unemployment rate has surged to its highest level in more than three years, as the coronavirus crisis continues to hit jobs. The unemployment rate for all people in the UK was 4.5 per cent for June to August 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous quarter, and 0.6 percentage points higher than a year earlier. During this same period, redundancies increased by a record 113,000 on the year, and a record 114,000 on the quarter, to 227,000.
As a result of the ongoing crisis, there has been a sharp increase in those out of work and job hunting since March. Overall employment is down about half a million since the pandemic began and there are particular groups that seem to be most affected. The worry is that the situation will get much worse, with employment prospects deteriorating rapidly across the board as the job retention scheme closes alongside a swell of school leavers and new graduates who are currently seeking to enter the jobs market.
The government prepared to impose new local lockdown rules that would see some businesses forced to close. Prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed the introduction of a three-tiered local lockdown system for England, separating the country into different levels of alertness, starting with medium and increasing to very high. Areas falling under the most severe very high alert level will see the closure of pubs and bars and potentially restrictions on the hospitality, leisure, entertainment and personal care sectors. However, the retail sector, schools and universities would remain open. Financial support including through the government’s extended furlough scheme will be available to businesses told to close.
Although the government has announced a number of measures to help save jobs, from the job retention bonus to the job support scheme, it is questionable whether this will be enough for businesses in real difficulties. This is an incredibly challenging period for employers and employees and longer-term strategies and support will need to be implemented to help tackle further unemployment.