THE NUMBER of people claiming unemployment benefit in the UK soared to 2.1 million in April – the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown. The April total went up by 856,500, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
According to the Resolution Foundation, because of the coronavirus pandemic, more than one-in-three 18 to 24-year-olds is earning less than before the outbreak. It said younger workers will be on low pay for years, while older staff will end up permanently unemployed i.e. they are to be reduced to permanent beggary.
Jagjit Chadha, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, commented: ‘We can reasonably expect unemployment to rise very quickly to something over 10% – something we haven’t seen since the early 1990s.’ Workers who are at home on furlough are not counted in the jobless total. When the scheme ends in October a further 11 million will be added to the jobless mountain.
Meanwhile, the total number of weekly hours worked showed its largest annual decrease in 10 years. In the final week of March, the total number of hours worked was about 25% fewer than in other weeks within the quarter.
The number of job vacancies from February to April tumbled by 170,000 to 637,000 – a record quarterly fall. Without the extraordinary multi-billion government support package unemployment would have shot through the roof. However, the numbers will get worse with next month’s figures. The vacancy drop shows there are fewer jobs for those who do lose work, and there are real concerns as to what happens when the support starts to be phased out to end in October.
The 24.8% year-over-year drop in the three-month average measure of job vacancies in April – the steepest since October 2009 – shows that very few unemployed people will be able to find a job.
Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, told the BBC’s Today programme that the virus has caused an ‘unprecedented emergency’, adding: ‘I think we should be prepared for the unemployment rate to increase significantly.’ Labour Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said the figures show ‘the severity of the crisis we are facing’. He added: ‘We support the changes the government has made so far during the outbreak, but they do not match the scale of the crisis.’
More than one-in-three 18 to 24-year-olds now earns less than before the coronavirus outbreak, the Resolution Foundation research shows. Around a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds have been furloughed – meaning they do not work but their firms keep them on the books and the government covers 80% of their wages. A further 9% have lost their jobs altogether – the highest figure out of all age groups.
Industries that traditionally employ younger staff, such as pubs, restaurants and leisure centres, have remained shut throughout the UK’s eight-week lockdown, as have many shops. Employees across all age groups were found to be more likely to earn less than they did in January than earn more. Those aged 35 to 44 were the least likely to have been furloughed or lost their jobs, with around 15% experiencing this since the outbreak began.
The Resolution Foundation, which studies earnings of lower and middle income workers, surveyed more than 6,000 UK adults at the beginning of May. The Health Foundation, the charity which funded the research, says it is concerned that the current crisis is magnifying the already-precarious employment conditions young people face.
The report found the scale of pay reductions during the crisis would have been greater were it not for the government’s Job Retention Scheme.
This scheme covers 80% of workers’ pay up to £2,500 per month and was recently extended to October. A quarter of the workforce, some 7.5 million people, are now covered by the arrangement, which has cost £14bn a month.
At the end of October over 11 million furloughed workers will be thrown to the wolves, it will be the greatest increase in mass unemployment in the UK ever.
It mirrors the more than 36 million people who are now filing for unemployment benefits in the US, representing almost a quarter of the American workforce.
It is being spelt out that in the most advanced countries, including the UK and the USA, there is no future for the working class and the youth. Now is the time to build the Young Socialists into a mass revolutionary youth movement that will mobilise masses of youth and inspire the working class to go forward.
Now is the time to build sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in every country to lead the victory of the world socialist revolution, which began in 1917, to its victor