This briefing was last updated on 18 December 2020. This is a fast-moving situation, so please be aware that information may have changed since the date of publication. The Library intends to update this briefing.

This paper tracks the evolving impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the labour market.

On 15 December, the labour market statistics for August-October 2020 were published.

These statistics showed a further increase in both unemployment and redundancies, with the latter at its highest level since records began in 1995. The level of vacancies and working hours continued to recover, although remained below the levels seen prior to the start of the pandemic.

To date, the pandemic has had more of an impact on the labour market status of particular age groups.

Since the start of the pandemic, employment levels for those aged 16-24 and 65+ have fallen by 343,000, or 7%. In comparison, employment levels for those aged 25-64 have also fallen, but by much less at 140,000, or 0.5%.

The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits increased by 1.4 million between March 2020 and November 2020.

9.9 million employee jobs had been furloughed through the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) by midnight on the 13 December.

Throughout April and May, over 8 million jobs were on furlough, with a peak of 8.9 million jobs furloughed on the 8 May. 6.8 million jobs were on furlough at the end of June, 5.1 million were on furlough at the end of July, and 3.3 million were still on furlough on 31 August. This fell to 2.4 million on the 31 October.

The third tranche of the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) opened for applicants on the 30 November 2020. By midnight on the 13 December, 1.7 million claims had been made.

Some workers are disproportionally economically impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Workers who are from an ethnic minority group, women, young workers, low paid workers and disabled workers, have been most negatively economically impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

For example, 15% of workers in sector which have shut down because of the coronavirus are from a minority ethnic background, compared to 12% of all workers, 57% are women, compared to a workforce average of 48%, and nearly 50% are under 35 years old. Low paid workers are more likely to work in shut down sectors and less likely to be able to work from home.


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