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UK sees record number of job losses during 3- month period

The sun rises over the London Eye, in London, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
The sun rises over the London Eye, in London, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LONDON – The number of people in the U.K. who lost their jobs hit a record high in the three months through October during the run-up to the planned ending of a government salary support scheme, official figures showed Tuesday.

The Office for National Statistics said redundancies reached 370,000 in the August to October period, a record for a three-month period. At the end of October, the British government had been planning to end the Job Retention Scheme, which saw it pay the majority of the salaries of people who had become idle due to the coronavirus pandemic but were kept on payroll by firms.

That program was eventually extended until the spring after the government announced a second national lockdown for England during November as infection numbers spiked. Those eligible for support will get 80% of their salaries paid for by the government.

“The labour market continued to deteriorate as infections grew — and restrictions increased — in the run-up to the second lockdown,” said Nye Cominetti, senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank. “Hospitality continues to be worst affected by Britain’s jobs crisis.”

The latest monthly numbers showed that there were 819,000 fewer employees on the payroll in November than in February, the month before the pandemic really took root in the U.K. Around a third of those job losses are believed to have come from the hospitality sector, such as in pubs and restaurants.

The government will hope that the renewed salary support will prevent firms from laying off more staff through the winter. The experience of the furlough program since its introduction in March is that it has limited the rise in unemployment, certainly in comparison with other countries such as the United States. The jobless rate has risen by around a percentage point over the past few months to 4.9% in October.

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