JOBS COLLAPSE – worst unemployment since crash

BA workers demonstrate at Heathrow last week – the company has sacked 42,000 of its workforce

THE NUMBER of jobs collapsed by 220,000 on the quarter, said the Office for National Statistics yesterday – the largest quarterly decrease since May to July 2009 at the peak of the financial crisis after the worldwide banking crash of 2007/8 – while those on zero-hours contracts has risen to over a million.

The youngest workers, oldest workers, and those in manual occupations were the worst hit during the pandemic, the ONS added.

The UK unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, largely unchanged on the year and the previous quarter, as millions remained on the government-backed furlough scheme.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, said: ‘The groups of people most affected are younger workers, 24 and under, or older workers and those in more routine or less skilled jobs.

‘This is concerning, as it’s harder for these groups to find a new job or get into a job as easily as other workers.’

The GMB union warned that these jobs figures are only the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ as a ‘ furlough cliff edge’ is fast approaching.

John Phillips, Acting General Secretary, GMB said: ‘Our country cannot suffer another decade of weak growth, cuts to services and squeezes on the poorest.

‘This challenge must be met square on with bold action and targeted support from government to protect jobs, secure livelihoods and save industries.’

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder. Ministers must act now to protect and create jobs.

‘That means extending the job retention scheme for businesses with a viable future who can’t operate because of virus restrictions.

‘It means investing in the jobs we need for the future in green industries, social care and across the public sector.

‘And it means ensuring a decent safety net is in place to help those who lose their jobs get back on their feet.  The more people in work the faster our economy will recover from this crisis.’

The ONS figures also show the number of people on zero-hours contracts has risen to over a million.

On this issue, O’Grady said: ‘It’s shocking that there’s now a million people on zero-hours contracts. Many of these are the key workers who worked through the pandemic but still face the uncertainty of not knowing when their next shift will be. Government must ban zero-hours contracts now.’

Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trades Union Alliance (ATUA), commented: ‘It is an utter disgrace that now over a million workers are on zero-hours contracts and millions more are being thrown onto the unemployment scrapheap, while the TUC calls no action whatsoever.

‘The TUC must stop begging the government and call a general strike to defend every job. Such a strike will bring this government down and create the conditions for a workers’ government to take the power and establish socialism.’