UK unemployment rose to 4.1 per cent in the three months to July, up from the 3.9% it had been clinging to since early 2020, while the number of unemployed people in Scotland rose to 128,000 to take the official measure up 0.1 percentage point to 4.6%.
The figures are the first of what is expected to be a surge in job losses as the Government’s coronavirus job subsidy scheme gets set to expire next month. It has raised further calls for Rishi Sunak to extent the job retention scheme that has shielded millions of workers, though the Chancellor has so far been resistant to these pressures.
Young people were hit particularly hard in the latest reading, with those aged 16 to 24 suffering the biggest drop in employment compared to other age groups.
“The recent performance of the labour market in Scotland broadly mirrors what we’ve seen in the rest of the UK, where easing of lockdown restrictions and a more flexible JRS in July have led to signs of stabilisation in vacancies and hours worked,” CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said.
“But across the UK, rising redundancies, creeping unemployment and a record fall in the number of young people in work are clear warning signs. Looking ahead, a successor to the job retention scheme is needed to protect jobs and businesses.”
It has been estimated that by the end of the year, the unemployment rate in Scotland will reach somewhere between 8-12%.
Separate data show that the number of staff on UK company payrolls fell by a monthly 36,000 in August. Overall, payroll numbers were down by 695,000 between March and August.
The reduction in payroll numbers does not directly translate into higher unemployment, as the official measure of unemployment does not include “discouraged” workers who are no longer actively seeking employment.
The Office for National Statistics also said that its figures might be “slightly impacted” by a change in the way it interviews households since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in the UK. The surveys, which now rely on telephone calls rather than face-to-face interviews, over-represent homeowners who are less at risk of unemployment.
Online supermarket Ocado said its retail joint venture with Marks & Spencer saw revenues rise 52% in the 13 weeks to August 30, with the pandemic generating huge demand for online deliveries.
The group has reported third quarter revenues of £587.3 million, up from £386.4m in the same period a year earlier. Its third quarter growth was an acceleration on that of 27.2% in the first half, and a rise of more than 40% in the second quarter.
Separately, market researcher Nielsen has reported a 5.3% increase in total British grocery sales during the four weeks to September 5, with demand boosted by households working from home since the pandemic began.
That growth was down from the 7% year-on-year increase in the previous month. During the latest period, online sales rose by 102% while sales at stores fell by 1.6%.
Bus and train operator FirstGroup has upgraded its profit outlook and said it is seeing interest from potential buyers for Greyhound and its other businesses in North America.
Passenger numbers of FirstGroup’s UK busses has accelerated in recent weeks to about 50% of pre-pandemic levels, while on UK railways, numbers remain around 30%. The company said that a better-than-expected rebound in revenue and strong cost control measures meant it now expects to report a small adjusted operating profit for the period from March to September.