United Kingdom

Commuter towns to bear the brunt of end of furlough scheme amid middle class jobs bloodbath

The pandemic has created a middle-class unemployment crisis that will get 'much worse' as Christmas approaches, experts warn.

Analysis reveals the extent of the jobs bloodbath in commuter towns, resorts and manufacturing hubs.

The number on the dole has already tripled in the hardest-hit towns and cities.

In the ten worst-affected areas there are 138,000 on out-of-work benefits – 75,000 more than before the pandemic. 

The pandemic has created a middle-class unemployment crisis that will get 'much worse' as Christmas approaches, experts warn

The analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) raises fears that even well-off communities will become job wastelands as they are hammered by the coronavirus recession. 

It reveals the hardest hit areas include Slough, Luton and Peterborough as well as affluent seaside resorts such as Brighton.

Economists predict that a million jobs will be lost in the next nine weeks after the furlough scheme ends on Saturday.

Doug McWilliams, CEBR's deputy chairman, said: 'The middle class is likely to get hit much worse as we go on. A lot of management jobs have gone, a lot of professional jobs have gone, and some specialist ones. The middle classes have a jobs crisis – their pensions are squeezed and house prices will be lower.'

The gloomy figures are drawn from Office for National Statistics data showing the increase in the claimant count in the 12 months to September 10. This combines those claiming Universal Credit who are looking for work and those on the Job-Seekers' Allowance.

The CEBR has pinpointed the ten hardest-hit cities and towns, which have suffered from the virus's impact on sectors of the economy such as aviation, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism. 

Rhe hardest hit areas include Slough (pictured), Luton and Peterborough as well as affluent seaside resorts such as Brighton

The analysis excludes London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool – which currently have 635,440 claiming out of work benefits, up from 250,985 a year ago – to focus on the economic devastation in towns and regional cities, which typically find it harder to recover from recessions.

In Slough, which is heavily reliant on Heathrow, the number looking for work has more than tripled in a year from 2.6 per cent of the working age population to 8.5 per cent, or from 2,510 to 8,100.

In Luton, Easyjet's headquarters, the number has risen from 4,025 to 11,690. Tougher coronavirus rules announced last week will hit several regions highlighted.

Local leaders in Blackpool, now subject to the harshest Tier Three restrictions, say the resort is facing 'the equivalent of three winters in a row'.

Like Brighton the town has suffered from a sharp fall in visitors.

Northampton is one of several manufacturing hubs to shed thousands of jobs, while the number out of work in Wolverhampton has risen from 9,645 to 17,280 after Jaguar Land Rover and aerospace giant Collins slashed jobs.

Since March tens of thousands of jobs have disappeared in professional consultancy, aviation, events, the arts and travel.

Small independent high street businesses are having to shed staff as shoppers order online. Covid restrictions threaten to kill off bars, pubs and hotels, hitting thousands of small suppliers. Theatres, music venues and galleries have shed staff, while the National Trust has made 1,300 redundant.

Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak expanded his winter jobs scheme. Before his announcement economists were predicting unemployment, currently 1.5million, or 4.5 per cent, would exceed 2.5million by Christmas.

Last night there were calls for targeted government support for the worst-affected areas. Simon Clarke, Tory MP for Middlesbrough South, said: 'We've been left behind for 40 years. We need game-changing investment.'

Paul Maynard, Tory MP for Blackpool North, said: 'Any economy which is seasonal is now facing the equivalent of three winters in a row.'

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove, said: 'The Treasury must provide more effective support to prevent towns like Brighton being left behind for a generation.'

'I worried over putting food on the table' 

Cold charity

Dave Day was hit by redundancy in July and is now worried he will struggle to pay his mortgage and 'keep food on the table'.

The 51-year-old had worked at Brighton charity Impact Initiative for more than four years in outreach, caring for families and elderly people with dementia.

Mr Day, who has a 12-year-old son, was furloughed in March and hoped to return to work after the pandemic. But in July he was told his £20,000 a year job was no longer sustainable and he was made redundant.

Dave Day was hit by redundancy in July and is now worried he will struggle to pay his mortgage and 'keep food on the table'

Mr Day, from Brighton, said: 'It came as a blow as I really didn't know how we were going to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Like everyone else we had to tighten our belts massively. We had to cut out things we loved... and we had to take advantage of school meal vouchers.'

After being contacted by families still desperate for the personal care he offered while at the charity, Mr Day went freelance.

He said people were 'still desperate for help' and added that 'it's going to take a long time for some charities to recover from this'.

Heathrow hell 

Mother-of-two Hayley Morton has been struggling to make ends meet after being made redundant from her job after 15 years. 

Miss Morton, 33, was a customs expert for a company supplying in-flight entertainment, called Panasonic Aviation, which is based at Heathrow airport.

Mother-of-two Hayley Morton has been struggling to make ends meet after being made redundant from her job after 15 years

She was not on furlough during lockdown, and spent much of her time working in the office. She turned down voluntary redundancy, but bosses at her firm axed her job a week later.

Miss Morton, a single parent from Slough, said she is now worried about how she will provide for her two sons, who are seven and ten. She said: 'It's hard not to worry, it's going to take six weeks at least until I receive any support from the Government. In the meantime, I have to afford my rent and food and everything for my boys.'

Fashion disaster 

Thea McCarthy-Curless was left devastated after losing her dream job at a luxury fashion events company.

The 27-year-old had helped put on events for designers including Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Bulgari, but was made redundant at the start of October.

Thea McCarthy-Curless was left devastated after losing her dream job at a luxury fashion events company

She said: 'Everybody in my industry is suffering so much through the pandemic. I'm trying very hard to be positive but it is tough.

'It wasn't like it was just any old job to me, it was my whole career.

'My industry has been hit worst by this crisis as nobody has any clue when we'll next be able to put on events at the same scale we had been doing previously.'

Miss McCarthy had been employed by Soho production agency My Beautiful City, which produces events for some of the biggest names in fashion.

Miss McCarthy, from Haggerston, east London, will now focus on freelance work. She said: 'I'm getting my last pay check next month and I know I will have to savour that.'

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