Number of people claiming unemployment benefits jumped from 825,000 to 2.1million in first month of coronavirus crisis

THE number of people claiming benefits has soared by 856,500 to 2.097million in April due to the coronavirus crisis.

That’s according to new data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today.

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 Unemployment increased in the three months to March
Unemployment increased in the three months to MarchCredit: Getty Images – Getty

It comes as more than 2million people have claimed Universal Credit since the start of the epidemic with 25,000 claims a day being made.

Meanwhile, unemployment jumped by 50,000 to 1.35million in the first weeks of the coronavirus crisis compared to the same period last year.

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today reveal the increase in the three months to March.

It takes Britain’s unemployment rate up to 3.9 per cent in the January to March period.

What is furlough?

THE aim of the government’s job retention scheme is to save one million workers from becoming unemployed due to the lockdown.

Under the scheme, the government will pay 80 per cent – up to £2,500 a month – of wages of an employee who can’t work because of the impact of coronavirus.

Workers will be kept on the payroll rather than being laid off.

The government will pay the associated employer national insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on top.

The scheme has been extended to run until the end of September (although businesses will be asked to chip in from August) and can be backdated to March 1 2020.

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It’s available to all employees that started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before March 1, 2020.

If you’re between jobs, have started at a new place of work or were made redundant after this date then you can ask your former employer to rehire you to be eligible for the scheme.

Employers can choose to top up furloughed workers’ salaries by the remaining 20 per cent but they don’t have to.

Firms who want to access the scheme will need to speak to their employees before putting them on furlough.

While on furlough, staff should not undertake any work for their employer during the scheme.

But the UK’s employment rate reached the joint highest on record over the same period with 76.6 per cent of people in work.

The data only covers the very start of the coronavirus crisis though, taking into account just one week of lockdown, which began on March 23.

Furloughed workers are also counted as employed by the ONS, despite not working and only receiving at least 80 per cent of their usual wages, up to £2,500 a month, under the scheme.

It’s thought coronavirus has forced 11million people to be furloughed onto the government’s coronavirus jobs retention scheme or made unemployed – nearly a third of the UK’s workforce.

Separate research by think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reveals that by the time the lockdown was announced, firms had stopped posting new vacancies almost entirely.

It says new job postings on March 25 were just 8 per cent of their levels in 2019.

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Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: “While only covering the first weeks of restrictions, our figures show Covid-19 is having a major impact on the labour market.

“In March employment held up well, as furloughed workers still count as employed, but hours worked fell sharply in late March, especially in sectors such as hospitality and construction.

“Through April, though, there were signs of falling employment as real-time tax data show the number of employees on companies’ payrolls fell noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality again falling steepest.”

More than 6million Brits could find themselves unemployed by the end of May due to a “horrendous” coronavirus impact on jobs, according to research.

It means 20 per cent of Brits will be without a job – five times the current rate of 3.9 per cent.

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