Last month it was airlines, this month concerns about employment have flared up in the UK automotive, manufacturing and services sectors, with pubs and retailers also under pressure.
One in six UK car workers’ jobs is at risk of being lost to the coronavirus crisis and Brexit, according to a warning from the motor industry on Tuesday.
This comes after more than 6,000 UK automotive job cuts have been announced this month, including 1,000 from Bentley, the luxury carmaker owned by Volkswagen, and 500 at supercar manufacturer Aston Martin Lagonda (LON:AML).
One in three UK motor industry workers is currently on furlough due a chartering in global demand for new vehicles since coronavirus lockdowns came into force, UK new car sales in April and May slumped to their lowest levels since the 1940s and 50s.
While many car showrooms are reopening in England and Wales and production lines are restarting, demand remains depressed and car dealer Lookers PLC (LON:LOOK) said it is axing 1,500 jobs as well as closing 12 sites after a subdued reopening.
In car factories, social distancing is also slowing productivity, said the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) as it called for more government protection for the industry and a free trade deal with the EU.
“The prolonged shutdown has squeezed liquidity and the pressures are becoming more acute as expenditure resumes before invoices are paid,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.
“A third of our workforce remains furloughed, and we want those staff coming back to work, not into redundancy.”
On top of the auto industry, the preliminary reading of the manufacturing and services purchasing managers index for June showed a continued drop in employment.
The employment balance of the sentiment indicator crept up to 39.5, still well below the 50 reading that separates contraction from growth, and consistent with a 3% drop in employment, said Capital Economics.
These two flashing signals came from wide-ranging sector surveys but there have also been large job losses confirmed from a number of companies in recent weeks.
Last week, builders merchant Travis Perkins PLC (LON:TPK) announced plans to cut 2,500 of its workforce, and more cuts in other sectors are certain to be on the way, as the government furlough system winds down.
The UK job retention scheme, under which more than 8.4mln workers have been furloughed, remains in place until October, although from August companies will be asked to cover about a quarter of the 80% government subsidy.
So when the furlough scheme ends in the autumn, unemployment looks likely to reach levels last seen in the 1980s.
Measures confirmed by the Prime Minister overnight, allowing pubs, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs to reopen, will hopefully help to support a recovery of the hospitality sectors.
However, as survey last month found that a quarter of companies do not believe they will be able to afford to bring furloughed workers back, it still indicates that millions more job losses are on the way.
This was one of the themes from the most recent Bank of England policy meeting, where the monetary policy committee expressed less concerned about the impact on economic output from the lockdown as it now more worried about the labour market.