Almost 2million people who were employed this time last year have now been out of work for six or more consecutive months, figures show.
The Resolution Foundation said up to 1.9million people in January had either been out of work, made redundant of on furlough as a result of Covid lockdowns.
It warned that while the economy is expected to rebound this year with the vaccine roll out, many workers face more months of income uncertainty and unemployment.
It called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver targeted support to workers in industries that continue to be hammered by pandemic restrictions in his March Budget.
Redundancies are currently rising at the fastest rate on record in the UK.
The Treasury expects unemployment to hit 2.6million by the middle of the year as furlough is wound down.
The scheme, which has cost almost £50billion and subsidised the wages of almost 9million jobs at its peak in May last year, is due to close at the end of April. About 4.5million jobs are currently furloughed, according to the Resolution Foundation.
The report found 8% of workers currently employed either expect to lose their jobs in the next three months, or have been told they would be made redundant. This figure rises to 21% among those who have been furloughed for at least six months of the crisis.
The Foundation said the furlough scheme should be extended while public health restrictions remain in place. It added that support should be phased out gradually in the hospitality and leisure sectors.
Nye Cominetti, economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “While the UK’s economic prospects are finally looking up, job insecurity remains high, particularly among those who have spent long periods not working, or who are currently furloughed.”
Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, said: “Firms are desperate to start trading again so they can boost revenue and start thinking about the future. To do so they need to see a clear, evidence-based plan for reopening, and they need time to get back on their feet without unnecessary additional taxes, and the security of knowing that government will once again support them should we see additional restrictions imposed at any point.”
A cross-party group of more than 40 MPs also warned that pubs, bars and nightclubs risked “extinction” unless the chancellor used the budget on March 2 to increase emergency support for firms.
Louise Crawford runs The Spur pub in Chichester, West Sussex. It’s owned by The Wellington Pub Company, a brewer that owns 850 outlets across the UK.
Louise said that while employees have been placed on furlough, landlords are under no obligation to provide any rent relief. As a result, her business is struggling.
“By the time lockdown lifts, say in May, we will have lost in excess of £400,000. A massive amount for a small business such as ours.
“We have invested in shields/partitions and Covid measures to protect our customers as per government guidelines which has cost the business a lot of money with minimal support and income coming in. But despite this, we were forced into another lockdown overnight.”
Louise said firms are in the dark about reopening dates – with many relying on rumours.
“There’s been no updates at all as to what is changing or when it is even likely for us to open.
“The media says it could be March, then April with no alcohol, but this means we will lose trade from local drinkers.
“If they re-open us with no notice, as they did before, we have to weigh up whether we open with less product (some brewers can’t get the beers to us on such short notice) or wait until we can actually get stock in.
“The ideal outcome would be a set date to head toward, or at least a rough guide so we can indeed plan ahead.”
A Treasury spokesman said it was doing all it could to support jobs during the crisis.
“We will continue to invest in protecting and creating jobs through the remainder of the pandemic and through the recovery, and we will set out further details via the next stage of our ‘plan for jobs’ at the upcoming budget.”
Source: Daily Mirror