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The surprise is that more jobs haven't gone

Douglas Fraser
Business/economy editor, Scotland

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  • Coronavirus pandemic
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Unemployment up: employment down: with fewer job opportunities, fewer people making themselves available for work.

So, there are no surprises in the labour market figures for April, May and June - the most severe months of lockdown, with some easing in June.

However, it is a little surprising that the figures have not shifted more. An unemployment rate of 4.5% remains low, given the extraordinary economic events since March. The UK rate, of 3.9%, is the same as last year.

It seems the Labour Force Survey, which results in the normal headline employment statistics, is failing to capture those events, mainly because those on furlough are not counted as unemployed.

Partly, that is because many will return to work when it is there for them to do, and partly because the scheme is delaying unemployment for others.

The more significant measure of change is in UK-wide figures for the numbers on PAYE payroll tax, down by 730,000 between March and July.

That only covers employed people. Self-employed workers are harder to measure, and the income support scheme has not been as effective.

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image captionThe number of hours worked in food services has dropped sharply

IPSE, the independent workers association, says the average freelance worker went 5.5 weeks out of 13 without any work, and income fell by 25% between the first and the second quarters of the year.

There are clear indications that some have seen demand for their work fall away so far that they are back in the jobs market.

A measure of those claiming unemployment benefits shows a rise of 102% in the past year, to 222,300 in Scotland. Across the UK, the rise is 117%, to 2.7m.

There has been a significant shift, for the first time, in the number of those who were unemployed and then stopped looking for work.

And the number of weekly hours worked, across the UK, has fallen by nearly 20%, with the biggest fall in the category of accommodation and food services.

Those are the numbers that feel more like the reality facing people over the past few months of crisis, lockdown and stoppage for a large chunk of the economy.

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