Graphic shows UK unemployment benefit claims since 2008.


UK unemployment claims rise nearly 70% in April

May 20, 2020 - Unemployment claims in the UK jumped by a record amount in April to their highest level since the 1990s, underscoring the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the economy despite government wage subsidies.

Jobless claims surged by 856,500 to more than two million in April, the highest since 1996, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Tuesday. By comparison, claims increased by 143,000 during the worst month of the 2008-09 financial crisis.

The 69 percent surge in claimants from March to April this year represented the biggest monthly increase since comparable records began in the early 1970s.

As bad as it was, economists suggested it could have been much worse. The government created a job retention scheme to prevent millions of people from being laid off by effectively putting them on the government payroll. Britain’s Treasury said Tuesday that 8 million people have been put on furlough schemes and that a further 2 million self-employed people have applied for income support.

The government wage support scheme is due to ask employers to share costs from August, so job losses could accelerate if employers decide that their businesses can’t survive and give up.

Among the sectors hit hardest were hospitality and construction. Job vacancies also dropped sharply, with the number of empty posts falling by 170,000 to 637,000 in the three months to April compared with the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate was at 3.9 percent in March, the last month for which full labour market statistics are available. Experts predict it will rise toward 10 percent by the autumn.

PUBLISHED: 20/05/2020; STORY: Graphic News
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