Coronavirus: Local lockdowns and working from home ‘hurting jobs recovery’

Local lockdowns and working from home could be hampering Britain’s jobs recovery, new research suggests.

In March, the UK government announced a nationwide lockdown in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and part of that was instructing people to work at home if possible.

Seven months later, after a respite during the summer, workers have again been encouraged, if possible, to do their jobs from home.

The result is deserted high streets and city centres, leaving some service industry businesses struggling that rely on catering for office workers.

According to the Centre For Cities, job vacancies have failed to return to pre-COVID levels in 63 of the towns and cities analysed.

The think tank found that urban areas in Scotland and southern England are among the worst-hit.

Aberdeen recorded the steepest fall with a 75% year-on-year decline, followed by Edinburgh (57%), then Belfast and the West Sussex town of Crawley (both 55%).

London has seen the sixth biggest fall in job postings at 52%, while overall UK vacancies are 46% behind last year’s level, said the report.

Birkenhead, Chatham and Hull were among the places to have seen a faster recovery in job vacancies and they were also among those to have seen healthier levels of high street footfall.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “The chancellor made welcome amendments to the Job Support Scheme which should help save jobs, but many places across the country didn’t have enough jobs before the pandemic hit so creating more will be vital to prevent long-term economic damage to their local economies.”

Pawel Adrjan, an economist at Indeed, said: “The timid recovery in job vacancies is a portent of the distress towns and cities could face if restrictions continue to spring up in parts of the country already reeling from imposed lockdowns and reduced footfall.

“With the remote work trend showing no sign of abating, and entire regions being placed under stricter control, service jobs in large towns and cities could become scarcer still and pull the UK into a jobs spiral. That could mean a very long winter ahead for the millions of people currently unemployed.”

An HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We’ve put in place a comprehensive plan to protect, support and create jobs in every region of the UK, and recently increased the generosity of our winter support schemes, including our expanded Job Support Scheme, which will protect jobs in businesses that are open or closed.

“We are also providing additional funding for local authorities and devolved administrations to support local businesses.”

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