finance

Jobless figures rose while the country was in lockdown



Unemployment in Scotland rose marginally during a period when the country was in lockdown.

The jobless total increased to 4.6% between May and July and remains higher than in the rest of the UK.

Across the UK, unemployment increased by 0.2% to 4.1%.

The figures were published this morning by the Office of National Statistics.

However, a much larger rise in job losses was prevented by the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme, otherwise known as furlough.

The wage subsidy policy will come to an end soon and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon fears its withdrawal will lead to a “tsunami of redundancies”.

The same figures showed employment rose in Scotland by 0.1% to 74.3% in the same three month period.

Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, said:

“For the period May to July 2020, Scotland’s employment rate estimate rose slightly over the quarter to 74.3% and the unemployment rate estimate also rose slightly over the quarter to 4.6%.

“These figures only partially show how the lockdown measures needed to supress coronavirus (COVID-19) have affected our economy and labour market – they still do not reflect the full impact on employment as the Job Retention Scheme will have offered some relief to many employers and employees.”

He said the funding was particularly needed in sectors such as travel, tourism and hospitality.

CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said: “The recent performance of the labour market in Scotland broadly mirrors what we’ve seen in the rest of the UK, where easing of lockdown restrictions and a more flexible JRS in July have led to signs of stabilisation in vacancies and hours worked.

“But across the UK, rising redundancies, creeping unemployment and a record fall in the number of young people in work are clear warning signs. Looking ahead, a successor to the Job Retention Scheme is needed to protect jobs and businesses.”

The British Chambers of Commerce’s head of economics Suren Thiru said: “While there was a rise in the number of job vacancies, this is more likely to reflect a temporary bounce as the economy gradually opened, rather than a meaningful upturn in demand for labour.

“With many firms are still facing waves of cash flow problems, rising costs and an uncertain economic outlook, it is probable that unemployment will escalate sharply as government support winds down.”

Deloitte senior economist Debapratim De said: “The furlough scheme has been very effective in cushioning the blow from the pandemic to the labour market.

“But cracks are beginning to show, with unemployment rising – particularly among younger workers – and redundancies hitting their highest level in almost eight years.

“Although growth has bounced back in the third quarter, the recovery is likely to be slow and uneven, with a sharp rise in unemployment almost unavoidable once the furlough scheme ends.”



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