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UK Employment Figures, October 2020: Redundancies Hit Record in Q3

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Job losses mounted prior to furlough extension.

The most striking feature of today’s ONS release was the scale of redundancies between July and September. A record 314,000 people lost their jobs in the third quarter, more than double the number made redundant in the second quarter of the year and surpassing the previous 2009 peak.

This was at a time when the government wage contribution was being tapered in advance of the anticipated closure of the scheme at the end of October. But the subsequent resurgence of the virus and reimposition of strong restrictions prompted a U-turn from the Chancellor and the full furlough scheme will now run through to March. 

Though it comes too late to save some of the jobs that may have been saved otherwise, the furlough extension should help limit the damage to the labour market over the winter. Along with the promising vaccine news, the hope is that mass job losses can be staved off, with hard-hit sectors now able to see some light at the end of the tunnel. 

Though the furlough medicine is working – the number of payrolled workers dipped by a relatively modest 33,000 in October – the pain is being felt unevenly. In particular, younger people are being hit disproportionately hard. During the last quarter, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds in work plunged by 174,000 to reach its lowest level since the series started in 1992.