Covid redundancies: 'London is unforgiving if you don't have money'

By Sam Francis
BBC News, London

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionMore people have lost their jobs in London than in any other part of the country

Across the UK the unemployment rate has risen to its highest level in almost five years and London now has the highest rate of redundancies anywhere in the country.

"Losing my job has hit my mental health really hard. It was so out of my control, I felt cut loose without any way of coming back," says Dave Williams.

The 41-year-old former business director had to leave his job with a marketing firm in August.

Just under 19 people per 1,000 lost their jobs in London in the final quarter of last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In the same period 12 months earlier, the rate was 3.5 people per 1,000.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe Bank of England forecasts unemployment will continue to rise, peaking at an estimated 7.75% later in the year

"London is a really unforgiving place if you don't have money," said Mr Williams.

"Your job is a big part of your identity. I have a wife and two kids, a mortgage and responsibilities I need to pay for.

"All of that was taken away from me by the pandemic."

Mr Williams says he is now looking for a different type of work as he believes it will take the marketing industry "a year to recover to a point where there will be enough jobs".

The UK's jobless rate rose to 5.1% in the three months to December, with the number of people on company payrolls down 726,000 on pre-pandemic levels, according to the ONS.

Almost three-fifths of those losing jobs were younger than 25 years old.

Young people 'falling behind'

Samuel Routley, a 21-year-old actor, graduated from drama school during the pandemic.

image copyrightSamuel Routley
image captionSamuel Routley was let go from his theatre job only a few weeks after he started working

"It's been a shock to graduate when there are no opportunities," he said.

"You feel like you're falling behind because you need to have an opportunity to have a head start.

"You feel in your prime because you're fresh and ready to go."

Mr Routley took a job at a London theatre when restrictions eased last autumn, but found himself out of work when the industry had to close down again in December.

"It was disappointing to be let go. I know a lot of people on short-term contracts or who freelance and are self-employed, so there's not a lot of help for us," he said.

Mr Routley has since taken a job helping with the UK's test-and-trace service.

The Bank of England is forecasting that the unemployment rate will rise sharply through 2021 and could peak at an estimated 7.75% later in the year.

Shops will begin reopening under stage two of the roadmap for easing Covid restrictions in England, set out by the government, but the earliest this could happen is 12 April.

Museums, theatres, cinemas can begin to reopen in stage three, expected around 17 May, with nightclubs remaining closed until all limits on social contact are lifted, which will happen no earlier than 21 June.

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