United Kingdom labour market outlook bleakest since 1992

LONDON (AFP) – The outlook for Britain’s coronavirus-blighted labour market is at its bleakest for almost 30 years despite the easing lockdown, a survey showed yesterday.

Employment consultancy ManpowerGroup revealed the outcome of a survey of 1,056 United Kingdom (UK) employers, which comes as Britain continues to relax its COVID-19 lockdown.

“Hiring intentions for the third quarter of 2020 are down to minus 12 per cent, with a sharp drop across all major sectors,” ManpowerGroup said in a statement, noting this was the worst level since it began the survey in 1992.

The so-called net employment outlook is calculated by subtracting the number of employers who want to cut staff from those wanting to hire staff.

On a more optimistic note, ManpowerGroup added that most UK businesses expected to return to normality over the next 12 months.

An employee wearing a face shield works behind a safety screen in a Furniture Village store in Croydon, in south-east London on June 5. The outlook for Britain’s coronavirus-blighted labour market is at its bleakest for almost 30 years despite the easing lockdown, a survey showed yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

“Employers remain cautiously optimistic that this will be temporary with … 57 per cent of employers expecting to return to pre-COVID-19 hiring levels by this time next year.”

Managing Director of ManpowerGroup UK Mark Cahill noted the data showed “unprecedented” disruption from the disease, which has killed more than 40,000 in Britain.

“While there’s no getting away from the challenges that lie ahead, the data underlines the resilience of UK employers,” Cahill said.

He added, “The level of disruption is unprecedented and many will be looking closely at what happens next with how COVID-19 progresses, how consumers respond and what all this means for their own operations.”

Recent official UK data also painted a dire picture of the current state of the labour market.

The number of Britons claiming jobless benefit soared nearly 70 per cent in April to 2.1 million. Unemployment claims surged by a record 856,000 from March, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Britain imposed a lockdown on March 23 to halt the spread of the virus, and launched a furlough jobs retention scheme under which the state temporarily pays the bulk of wages.