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UK vacancies halve and pay falls as Covid-19 lockdown hits economy – business live

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

We start with some bad economic news: the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the UK jumped sharply last month, and the number in work fell, as the Covid-19 lockdown hit the economy

Preliminary data just released by the Office for National Statistics show that the UK claimant count surged in April by around 856,000, a rise of 69% in a single month.

That lifted the claimant count to nearly 2.1m people, from 1.24m in March.

UK claimant count

UK claimant count Photograph: Graeme/Office for National Statistics

That’s an astonishing increase: economist Rupert Seggins has calculated that it’s the biggest monthly rise since at least the early 1970s.

Rupert Seggins

The single month jump in the UK claimant count unemployment rate (from 3.5% to 5.8% is the largest monthly increase since comparable records began in 1971. You need to go back to February of 1947 (on older administrative data) to find a bigger single month increase.

May 19, 2020

The ONS points out that these are early estimates – they don’t have all the data for April, so it could be revised.

Plus, the government has relaxed the rules to allow more people to claim Universal Credit benefits if they’re affected by Covid-19 – which could also push the claimant count up.

But it’s clear that the labour was hit hard by the coronavirus last month.

In another blow, the ONS has also reported that the number of paid employees in the UK dropped by around 457,000 people in April. That takes the total down to around 28.557 million from just over from just over 29 million in March.

That’s a drop of around 457,000 people, or over 1.5%, in a single month. And it shouldn’t include workers who have been furloughed.

UK employment total up to April 2020

Photograph: Office for National Statistics

Early estimates for April 2020 also indicate that median monthly pay fell by 0.9% compared with the same period of the previous year

The ONS has also reported that the UK unemployment rate dropped in January-March to 3.9%, lower than expected. But that doesn’t include the impact of the measures taken in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Details and reaction to follow….

Also coming up

After very strong gains yesterday, European stock markets are expected to keep rising amid optimism that Covid-19 lockdowns will ease soon.

Policymakers will also be in the spotlight, with UK chancellor Rishi Sunak, US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and top US central banker Jerome Powell all due to speak.

Plus, we get new car sales data and econonomic confidence (or lack of it) data from the eurozone.

The agenda

  • 7am BST: UK unemployment data for January-March
  • 7am BST: European car sales figures for April
  • 10am BST: ZEW survey of eurozone economic sentiment
  • 3pm BST: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell speak to the Senate Banking Committee
  • 3pm BST: UK chancellor Rishi Sunak MP appears before the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee


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