The government’s coronavirus job retention scheme closes on Saturday, ending the first phase of the UK’s economic response to the pandemic.
When the scheme was announced in March it was hailed as an unprecedented intervention by the government, which committed to paying 80% of the wages of any furloughed worker (up to a monthly limit of £2,500). As large parts of the economy were forced to shut down, economists said the policy had been the main factor in preventing a dramatic rise in unemployment.
However, almost 32 weeks later, employment data suggests businesses and workers around the country are still relying on government support, even as the generosity of the support has been reduced. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, last week updated the furlough programme’s more limited replacement, the job support scheme.
Here is how the UK jobs market has fared during the pandemic.
1 Employees are losing work rapidly
The unemployment rate has risen during the crisis to 4.5% of the workforce in August, compared with a four-decade low of 3.8% before the pandemic arrived. Other indicators suggest a steeper increase in joblessness may be coming.
The number of people on employee payrolls has fallen sharply, suggesting 750,000 people had lost work even before the end of the furlough scheme and the second wave of the virus, according to data from HM Revenue and Customs.