Separate figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, showed that 50,000 more people were without work between January and March compared to a year ago, a number set to rise as the year goes on.
That is in part because the employment figures don’t yet give a full picture of lockdown’s impact – that data will come later – meaning this rise is only a small indication of the economic devastation expected further down the line.
Research by housing charity Shelter previously suggested that nearly one in five private renters in England, which works out as 1.7 million people, expected they would lose their jobs in the next three months as a result of the labour market chaos.
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “With a huge surge in people applying for benefits and early warning signs of major job losses to come, it’s clear that Covid-19 is going to send shockwaves through our economy like never before.
“We know from our services that thousands of renters are suddenly scrambling to stay afloat, and for those who’ve become unemployed, the furlough scheme is no help at all. Many are turning to Universal Credit in a desperate bid to pay their rent but are quickly finding out housing benefit levels are too low to break their fall.
“People paying average rents face huge shortfalls and many are racking up serious debts that put their homes at risk. Without more support, they will be swept up in a tidal wave of evictions when the government ban lifts. To prevent this, housing benefit must be increased to cover average rents and the benefit cap lifted – to give people a fighting chance.”
Earlier this month the Bank of England warned that the pandemic could plunge the country into the deepest recession in three centuries.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the Office of National Statistics, said: “While only covering the first weeks of restrictions, our figures show Covid-19 is having a major impact on the labour market.
“In March employment held up well, as furloughed workers still count as employed, but hours worked fell sharply in late March, especially in sectors such as hospitality and construction.
“Through April, though, there were signs of falling employment as real-time tax data show the number of employees on companies’ payrolls fell noticeably, and vacancies were sharply down too, with hospitality again falling steepest.”
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