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The threat of a new year surge in unemployment has been highlighted by a labour market report showing that the outlook for jobs in the UK is the weakest in Europe.
After a toughening of Covid-19 restrictions in October and November, the regular ManpowerGroup employment outlook survey reported that the chances of finding a job in retail and hospitality were currently worse than during the first nationwide lockdown in the spring.
The survey of 1,300 employers found that more were planning to shed jobs than hire new staff during the first three months of 2021, despite signs of a pick-up in hiring intentions in the finance and construction. The balance of –6 percentage points was the lowest among 24 countries studied.
Mark Cahill, managing director of ManpowerGroup UK, said: “The headline numbers are steadily moving in the right direction, and we are seeing a continued resurgence in key sectors like finance and business giving us reasons to be cheerful as we head into 2021.
“However, despite this positive trajectory, the UK remains the least optimistic in Europe, with continued uncertainty over Brexit and the effects of a second Covid-19 wave still looming large. Looking further ahead, our data also shows that only 49% of employers expect their hiring to return to pre-pandemic levels within the next 12 months.”
Retail and hospitality employ about 6 million workers between them, but Manpower said both had felt the impact of the four-week lockdown in England from 5 November to 2 December, with hiring intentions at their lowest level on record. Record lows were also reported by London employers.
In a separate report, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said consumers increased their spending during England’s four-week lockdown, but did so online. The BRC-KPMG monthly monitor showed that a near 50% year-on-year jump in online non-food sales was behind a small 0.9% increase in total spending in November. Almost 60% of non-food spending last month was online.
Meanwhile, the corporate collapses of Debenhams and Arcadia were put into context by figures from Barclaycard showing spending in department stores and clothing outlets down by 18% and 13% respectively in November. Spending overall was down by just under 2%, the credit card company said.
Cahill said: “The further decline of Britain’s high streets is deeply concerning. Shops, restaurants, and bars have remained mostly shut across the country, and the young people who make up a large proportion of workers in this sector have often borne the brunt.
“London’s shuttered shops are a stark reminder of the economic impact of the pandemic. Many of the city’s largest companies stuck to their hiring plans at the start of the first lockdown but are now adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, deferring hiring until the impact of the EU exit and Covid-19 in the new year is clearer.”
Helen Dickinson, the BRC chief executive, said: “November saw the brakes put on the sales growth that had been seen over the previous three months. In-store non-food sales saw a significant decline as a result of the lockdown in England; however, some retailers were able offset a proportion of lost sales through greater online and click-and-collect sales, ensuring they could still serve their customers.
“Extended discount periods helped spread demand and offered customers great deals on gifts including the latest gaming consoles, other electronics and home accessories. However, the disparity between online and in-store non-food sales widened, with the highest online penetration rate since May. Non-food stores once again experienced double-digit decline as tighter restrictions were brought in across England.”
Paul Martin, KPMG’s UK head of retail, said: “The evolution of Black Friday from a day to now spanning multiple weeks has further distorted trading patterns and will have likely brought Christmas purchases forward. Despite this, high-street retailers will still be hoping that consumers will be pounding the pavements in the coming weeks as they battle hard to make up for lost ground in this crucial time.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Outlook for jobs in UK is weakest in Europe, says report | Society