Seven charts on the coronavirus jobs market

Seven charts on the coronavirus jobs market


Construction worker wearing a face mask

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Millions of people across the UK have had their working lives upended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While many are working from home, others have been furloughed for weeks or even made redundant.

So who has been affected most to date by job losses? And which sectors have been worst hit?

Job losses

The UK unemployment rate held steady at 3.9% in the three months to April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But separate figures from the ONS show that the number of workers on UK payrolls dropped by more than 600,000 between March and May.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming work-related benefits jumped 23% in May to hit 2.8 million.

This figure doesn’t include everyone who is out of work, since not all can claim assistance, but it does provide a snapshot. It also captures some low-income workers.

These early estimates hint at the impact of lockdown measures in the UK, which has seen more than nine million workers furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme.

Some economists say the full impact on the jobs market won’t be felt until the furlough scheme ends in October.

Fewer hours worked

UK workers are clocking fewer hours as parts of the economy are at a standstill after lockdown measures were introduced on 23 March.

The total number of weekly hours worked recently saw its largest annual fall since records began in 1992.

The ONS said the total number of weekly hours worked in the three months to April had dropped to 959.9 million – down by a record 94.2 million, or 9%, on the previous year.

The drop in hours was “partly due” to the number of employees who have been furloughed, it added.

Job vacancies dip

The estimated number of vacancies in the UK fell sharply during the 2008 financial crisis.

Since 2012, they’ve generally been on the up, reaching a record high of 855,000 between November 2018 and January 2019.

But between March and May this year, there were an estimated 476,000 vacancies in the UK, 342,000 fewer than in the previous quarter.

Recent research by the IFS also suggests that workers across the board could have fewer options due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Having analysed jobs posted on the Department for Work and Pensions’ website in real-time, it found that they had started to drop off around mid-March.

By the time the lockdown was announced, firms had stopped posting new vacancies almost entirely.

Young people hardest hit

Young workers seem to have been most impacted by lockdown measures so far.

Recent research by the Resolution Foundation think-tank suggests that 9% of those aged between 18 and 24 have lost their jobs altogether, the highest of any age group.

Meanwhile, a previous study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that shutdown sectors employed nearly one-third of all workers under the age of 25, or 25% of young men and 36% of young women.

That compares to just one in eight workers aged 25 and over.

The IFS said that young people, women and the lowest earners will be most affected economically by the pandemic.

Sector shutdown

Many staff have been furloughed in sectors that have been forced to shut down during lockdown.

Those include retail, leisure and hospitality, where a high proportion of women work.

Although non-essential shops have since reopened in England and Northern Ireland, pubs and restaurants will not be allowed to open their doors until July at the earliest.

The largest proportion of the workforce being furloughed was recorded in accommodation and food service activities, which includes hotels, restaurants and cafes.

That was followed by those working in construction and manufacturing, according to one ONS survey.

North East sees most out of work

The coronavirus lockdown has caused severe disruption to business activity across the UK.

Some parts of the country will feel the negative effect on their local economies more than others.

The North East of England had the highest unemployment rate estimate for the three months to the end of April at 5.2%.

The largest rise in the unemployment rate on the previous quarter was seen in Scotland, where it went up by 1.1 percentage points, followed by the West Midlands, which saw a rise of 0.3 percentage points.

These figures can be volatile, and for now it is too early to say to what extent the jump in the estimate for Scotland is part of a longer term trend, the ONS said.

One report by the Centre for Cities found that the economic pain inflicted by Covid-19 will be felt unequally across the UK, with workers in more affluent areas such as the South East able to work from home, for example.

The coronavirus crisis risks widening regional inequalities, and frustrating government efforts to “level up” prosperity across the UK, it suggests.

Global workforce

Following the financial crisis, global unemployment increased by 22 million, according to the International Labour Organization.

A previous study by the group found that the majority of those job losses occurred across more developed economies.

But the coronavirus crisis has disrupted supply chains around the world in a way never seen before.

As some governments lift lockdown restrictions, it remains to be seen what the full impact on the jobs market will be.

In the United States, employers cut more than 21 million jobs in March and April, as lockdowns forced businesses to shut their doors.

In April, the unemployment rate hit 14.7%, the highest level since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

This fell slightly to 13.3% in May as the government released billions of dollars in emergency aid to businesses to cover wages for employees, encouraging them to rehire staff.

But more than 30 million people continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to the US Labor Department.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said that for many, recession is “unavoidable”.


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