Written by: Keith Tully
British companies let go of their employees at a record rate during the third quarter of this year as the coronavirus pandemic continued to take its toll.
Around 314,000 people were made redundant during the three months to the end of September, which is an unprecedented figure and roughly 181,000 more than lost their jobs during the second quarter of 2020.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the overall unemployment rate across the UK rose to 4.8 per cent in the third quarter, which is the highest level since late 2016.
The government has helped to protect employment throughout much of 2020 via its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allowed organisations to continue paying their staff even if they were unable to work.
However, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced over the summer that the scheme would be tapered off and eventually ended at the start of November.
More recently, the chancellor revealed that a new job retention scheme was to be introduced until March 2021, with potentially millions of people set to see their wages once more covered by the Treasury.
Between July and September though employers were grappling with the prospect of seeing the job retention scheme closed while the pandemic remained very much an ongoing problem and a huge operational challenge.
“Unemployment grew sharply in the three months to September, with many of those who lost their jobs earlier in the pandemic beginning to look for work again,” said Jonathan Athow, the ONS’ deputy national statistician for economic statistics.
“Vacancies continued to recover from the very low numbers seen earlier in the year,” he added. “However, these figures predate the reintroduction of restrictions in many parts of the UK.”
Rishi Sunak responded to the figures by suggesting they “underline the scale of the challenge we’re facing”.
“I know that this is a tough time for those who have sadly already lost their jobs,” he said, “and I want to reassure anyone that is worried about the coming winter months that we will continue to support those affected and protect the lives and livelihoods of people across this country”.
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