Jobless claims in the United Kingdom surged by almost 70 per cent in April, the largest increase since records began. It is the latest example of the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19 crisis.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) around 856,500 people registered for universal credit and jobseeker’s allowance benefits last month, bringing the total figure to 2.1 million.
Out of a workforce of around 30 million people and a total population of almost 67 million, this figure may not be as shocking as the mass unemployment witnessed in Britain’s largest individual trading partner, the United States. One in four American workers are now claiming some form of unemployment benefit.
The British government has avoided such a situation through its furlough scheme, whereby companies are paid by the state to retain their workers on 80 per cent of their salary, up to £2,500 per month.
However, there are fears of a further cascade of unemployment when the scheme ends in October. Around seven million British workers are currently being kept afloat by the government’s unprecedented loan scheme.
The South West of England was the region worst affected in April. Jobless benefit claims almost doubled from the month before.
The number of job vacancies in Britain also suffered a record slump, with the ONS estimating that there were 170,000 fewer jobs in February to April than in the previous quarter. This figure far surpasses the previous largest fall of 106,000 following the financial crisis of 2008-09.
The government’s statistics body also found that median monthly pay in April fell by almost 3 per cent month-on-month.
The employment minister Mims Davies said: “Clearly these figures are behind on our current struggle, but the impact of this global health emergency is now starting to show… What these statistics do highlight is that heading into the pandemic, we had built strong foundations in our economy, which will be crucial as we gradually move forward as the lockdown eases and look to bounce back.”
Britain is the nation second-most affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak in terms of mortality, with almost a quarter million confirmed cases and nearly 35,000 deaths.