Covid-19 lockdown reduces numbers on payroll by 649,000
Figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown that the number of workers on UK payrolls fell by 649,000 between March and June.
Meanwhile, 2.6 million were shown to be claiming work-related benefits - including those for the unemployed - during the period.
The impact of the government’s Job Retention Scheme has cushioned the impact, with the numbers not as great as initially feared.
Yet, economists warn that employment is likely to take a further hit when the furlough scheme winds down in October.
Figures show that the number of total weekly hours worked in the UK has dropped by 175.3 million [16.7 per cent] to 877.1 million hours, which the ONS called the “largest annual decrease since estimates began in 1971” and the lowest levels seen since May to July 1997.
The ONS continued: "Vacancies in the UK in April to June 2020 are at the lowest level since the survey began in April to June 2001, at an estimated 333,000; this is 23 per cent lower than the previous record low in April to June 2009.
"Despite the lack of overall increase in the number of unemployed, the estimated number of people unemployed aged 16 to 24 years increased by 47,000 on the year while other age groups remained steady."
The ONS clarified that a larger number of people than usual were losing jobs and were not as of yet looking for work, so they were deemed economically inactive rather than unemployed, suggesting that the true number of jobless individuals is greater than unemployment figures suggest.
It said: "An increased number of respondents who were previously unemployed have moved to economic inactivity, suggesting that some who were previously unemployed are no longer looking for work."
The Office for Budget Responsibility believes that unemployment could hit the heights of four million.
Matthew Percival, director for people and skills at the Confederation of British Industry [CBI], said: "These figures show serious difficulties for hundreds of thousands of people, but unfortunately this is still only the beginning of the impact on the labour market. Flattening the unemployment curve will remain paramount."
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce has shown that 29 per cent of businesses are expected the size of their workforce to shrink in the next three months, and the body has since called for a cut in National Insurance contributions paid out by employers to help preserve jobs.