London unemployed increase by a third as Covid hits east of city hardest

London unemployed increase by a third as Covid hits east of city hardest

The number of Londoners actively seeking work had soared by 36 per cent two weeks into the lockdown compared with the figure for mid-February, official figures show.

Office for National Statistics data show that as of 9 April 300,000 people in the capital were recorded as benefit claimants actively seeking work, a rise of 110,000 compared with eight weeks earlier.

The government introduced full lockdown measures and its “stay at home” message from 23 March having earlier asked for a shutdown of most shops and many workplaces and introduced social-distancing requirements.

In percentage terms, the overall rise in the unemployment rate in London during the same – up 3.1 per cent to five per cent – is similar to the UK average, though some boroughs have seen steeper increase than others, particularly in the east of the capital.

Analysis by think tank Centre for London has found the greatest increases to have been in areas which had the highest claimant rates before the virus took widespread effect. Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Havering and Redbridge in the east of the city are among those that have since the largest changes, along with Enfield in the suburban north.

Centre for London Research Manager Nicolas Bosetti says the disproportionate ill-effects in these boroughs “could be because their residents are more likely to work in occupations affected by physical distancing”.

Bosetti adds that other economic measures suggest London might be showing slightly greater resilience than the rest of the country, with the the number of jobs advertised plunging slightly less precipitously than in nearly all the rest of the UK, although the Greater London Authority has estimated that that the fall in economic activity in London will match the national average.

A GLA survey has found that around 30 per cent of Londoners had either lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their hours of work reduced due to the effects of the coronavirus. However, the same survey also found that 70 per cent of London businesses say they have continued trading and that 60 per cent of those believe they continue through the crisis.

Responding to the unemployment figures, Sadiq Khan said they showed that the situation “could get far worse unless sustained action is taken to support the economy”. Though welcoming the government’s extension of its job retention scheme, the Mayor argued, “It is far better for the Government go further to keep people in work now, than we see growing levels of unemployment, poverty and homelessness causing huge long-term damage to people’s lives. No options should be off the table to protect jobs and to stop people being pushed into poverty.”

Image from Centre for London. To see the think tank’s maps of the data in full, visit their website.

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