Socialist Worker

Soaring numbers are out of work - we need resistance to the jobs slaughter

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2714

No shame - chancellor Rishi Sunak visiting a job centre in Barking, east London, on the day that new figures showed the number of people out of work has soared by 649,000 in three months

No shame - chancellor Rishi Sunak visiting a job centre in Barking, east London, on the day that new figures showed the number of people out of work has soared by 649,000 in three months (Pic: PA)


The number of people out of work in Britain has soared by nearly 650,000 in three months, according to new figures. The figure does not include the estimated 9.4 million jobs that have been furloughed on the government’s “job retention” scheme.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that there were 649,000 fewer “payroll employees” in June this year compared to March, when the lockdown began. It’s a fall of 2.2 percent.

Young people have been hit hard, with the ONS estimating that 47,000 fewer people aged 16 to 24 are employed compared to a year ago.

The ONS also said that average total pay across the workforce, including bonuses fell by 0.3 percent compared with a year ago. It’s the biggest fall since 2009.

The figures also show that the number of hours worked in Britain have seen the steepest fall since records began in 1971. Hours worked each week fell by 175.3 million, or 16.7 percent, between March to May 2019 and March to May this year.

The Resolution Foundation think tank has said that the way unemployment is recorded might not reflect the “true scale of joblessness”.

ONS stats show that unemployment rose by 34,000 in April to reach 1.3 million. But the Resolution Foundation said the fall in hours worked gives a better picture of unemployment.

The government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility has already predicted that four million people could become unemployed due to the virus crisis.

Mike Brewer from the Resolution Foundation said Britain is facing “an unprecedented economic shock that is profoundly affecting millions of people’s jobs”.

“Unemployment is forecast to hit four million for the first time ever,” he said. “And yet our official data is failing to show the true extent of this jobs crisis.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called the situation “a national disaster”. She complained, “Ministers are watching from the side lines instead of saving jobs with targeted support.”

She’s right to call for the government to do more to support ordinary people. But many could be forgiven for feeling that the union leaders aren’t doing much more than watching from the side lines either.

Millions have either lost their jobs, had their hours or pay cut, or are at risk of losing work in the future. Yet there has been a complete lack of resistance to the onslaught from the unions. A fightback is urgently needed.

The Tories’ furlough scheme, which pays some of workers’ wages to stop them being laid off, is set to be scaled back from August, and closed altogether by the end of October.

Massacre

The jobs massacre will rapidly intensify.

Nearly a third of businesses in Britain, 28 percent, expect to cut jobs in the next three months, according to a new survey of 7,400 firms from the British Chambers of Commerce. It’s survey at the same time last year found that only 7 percent expected to cut jobs.

The same survey this year found that 28 percent had already made cuts.

And for all chancellor Rishi Sunak’s claims to be boosting jobs, the reality is that the Tories are hanging people out to dry.

Even the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a pro-market think tank, said this week that Sunak’s Summer Statement isn’t all it pretended to be.

Sunak said that the Tories’ “Plan for Jobs” would mean up to £30 billion of investment in support for workers.

But IFS director Paul Johnson said the “Rooseveltian” plan “represents an increase of precisely zero this year on Budget plans”.

The IFS said the plan would see up to £10 billion less spent on previously planned projects, as the plan is partly funded by making cuts elsewhere. For instance, it said nearly half the £400 million for traineeships and apprenticeships comes from cuts made elsewhere.

And “capital spending is actually no higher overall than was planned back in March”.

The IFS said the “lack of transparency” from the Treasury is “corrosive to trust”.

It will be no surprise to many ordinary people that the Tories aren’t going to protect them from the crisis. Working class people need to push for, and organise, a concerted fight to defend jobs.


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