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UK Jobless Claims Surge by More Than Half a Million in May Amid COVID-19 Fallout

© AP Photo / LEFTERIS PITARAKISA man seen outside a job centre, in west London (File)
A man seen outside a job centre, in west London (File) - Sputnik International
The over two-month lockdown has expectedly had a heavy toll on British citizens' employment, prompting Whitehall to introduce an all-embracing furlough scheme to cover wages until October 2020 and a special supportive programme for the self-employed.

Claims for jobless benefits went up by 529,000 across Britain last month, taking the total claimant count to 2.8 million, the Office for National Statistics said Tuesday, adding that the figure for April was revised up to more than one million.

The numbers were registered at the height of the lockdown measures, which have been in place all over the country since 23 March in a bid to curb the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 disease. The headline rate for unemployment lingered at 3.9% in the three months through April, when the number for April alone rose by 429,000, ONS said, with a large share of Brits rendered economically inactive.

Data from last week showed the economy shrank by a fifth in April, with the government now proceeding to usher in the next stage of the lockdown easing, allowing non-essential stores in England to reopen on Monday, with UK policymakers expected to announce a further expansion of their asset-purchase programme.

As many as 11 million job are now up for state compensation, with the furlough programme worth around 60 billion pounds ($75 billion) due to run until the end of October. A similar plan for the self-employed has also been devised and is expected to further add to the cost.

The UK has now moved to phase two of the lockdown relaxation, permitting such public spots as zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas to reopen alongside non-essential shops, provided that crucial social distancing and enhanced hygiene continue to be maintained.

In phase 1 of the lockdown easing, Downing Street allowed residents starting 1 June to meet in groups of up to six provided that this was done outdoors. In terms of border issues and travel, as part of phase 1, a two-week quarantine period for anyone arriving in the UK has been enforced since 8 June, despite hospitality businesses warning against another round of negative economic consequences the move may have. In particular, this means that anyone arriving in the UK by plane, ferry, or train - including UK nationals - will have to provide an address where they will stay for 14 days, or face fines.


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