Boris Johnson issues stark warning to brace for ‘bumpy’ months ahead

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The number of people in work fell by 220,000 between April and June – the sharpest drop since the financial crash, official statistics showed.

So far the virus crisis has already cost around a million workers their livelihoods.

About 730,000 – almost 4,800 every day – left firms’ payrolls between March and the end of July.

And the number of selfemployed slumped by a record 238,000 between March and June, with many throwing in the towel because their work dried up overnight.

Debenhams has added to the grim picture by announcing it will axe 2,500 jobs in its stores and warehouses.

And economists warn there is worse to come when the furlough scheme ends in October.

Figures out today are expected to confirm Britain is in recession in the worst slump on record after being shut down to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Johnson said there is a “long, long way to go” but insisted he is committed to making “colossal investments” needed to rebuild the economy.

The PM said: “We always knew that this was going to be a very tough time for people.

“What we are going to have to do is to keep going with our plan to ‘build, build, build’ and build back better, and ensure that we make the colossal investments that we can now make in the UK economy to drive jobs and growth. Some parts of the economy are undoubtedly showing great resilience but there are going to be bumpy months ahead and a long, long way to go.”

Claims for universal credit by people who are unemployed or on low pay went up by 117 percent to 2.7 million between March and July.

The official unemployment rate remains flat at 3.9 percent, but the figure is masking much higher rates of joblessness as only those actively seeking work are counted. The drop in the number of people in work hit the young, old and manual workers the hardest.

Around 7.5 million people were estimated to be temporarily away from work in June this year, most of them on the Government’s furlough scheme, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Around three million had been away for three months or more.

But the number of vacancies jumped 10 percent in May to July at 370,000 from a record low in April to June. Total pay, including bonuses, went down by 1.2 percent in the three months to June.

As the figures were released Debenhams announced its plans to axe thousands of jobs four months after it collapsed into administration.

A spokesman said: “The trading environment is clearly a long way from returning to normal and we have to ensure our store costs are aligned with realistic expectations.”

The Government is ending its job retention scheme in October but has promised a £1,000 bonus for every furloughed employee a company brings back and keeps paying until January.

Experts say unemployment will spiral when the support is axed.

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, called the latest employment figures “the lull before the storm”.

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The furlough scheme has succeeded in preserving millions of jobs. However, with firms continuing to face a perfect storm of increased costs, reduced demand, and diminished cash reserves, unemployment is likely to surge as the Government support schemes wind down unless action is taken.”

Matthew Percival, CBI skills director, said: “This data shows the devastating mark left on the labour market by coronavirus.

“More positively, there is a small rise in vacancies, particularly in the hospitality sector as restrictions were relaxed.

“As local lockdowns become more common, the nature of support for businesses and people will need to evolve.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The success of the job retention scheme has kept our employment figures healthy over the past few months but reality is now starting to hit home.

“The scheme’s future will need to be reviewed and the option of a meaningful extension to furloughing should be kept open.”

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