AROUND 695,000 UK workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March when the coronavirus lockdown began, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of unemployment increased as another 36,000 jobs fell off payrolls across the country.

Meanwhile, unemployment increased by 62,000 to 1.4 million for the three months to July.

It said the rate of unemployment therefore increased to 4.1 per cent, in line with analyst expectations.

This was the first time the jobless rate has increased since the pandemic spread across the UK.

Patrick Lonergan of Patrick Lonergan Recruitment Ltd based in Newton Aycliffe, said: "At the moment there are highs and lows depending on which sector you are looking at.

“The IT sector was able to increase jobs as a substantial number of businesses needed extra support to enable staff to work from home.

“Whereas the hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit, but it could have been worse were it not for the chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative.

“The full effect of Covid-19 on jobs is unlikely to become apparent until the New Year because the government’s job retention scheme is not due to end until October and the brunt will not be felt immediately as redundancies take time to process.”

Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough and Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and Protections visited Middlesbrough Job Centre to hear how Covid-19 continues to impact on the people of the town.

Talking to senior staff at the Centre, Mr McDonald heard there has been a 30 to 60 per cent increase in the numbers of people looking for work across the local job centre sites, commensurate with job losses. Hospitality has been one of the hardest hit sectors as well as those who are self-employed across all sectors.

In central Middlesbrough those looking for work stands at 7,100 compared with 3,900 on March 16, ahead of lockdown starting. In Middlesbrough East the current figure is 1,300 compared to 800 on March 16.

Mr McDonald said: “It is very clear talking to staff just how hard they have been working to support people who have lost their jobs during this pandemic and how they are trying to adapt to the ever changing picture but there is a limit to how much they can mitigate the overwhelming damage.

“This is especially true as we lead up to the end of the furlough scheme and the Job Centre staff are intensively carrying out rapid response training to assist people affected by the Government’s decision to end the furlough scheme. The staff are also assisting people who need support to improve their digital skills to fully access the employment market. There are huge inequalities in terms of digital access and digital skills and that has to be put right.

“These are deeply worrying times for tens of thousands of working people and their families in Middlesbrough and across the Tees Valley. There are some very welcome islands of employment positivity but they are vastly outweighed by the losses and the threat of further job losses hanging over people.

“My fear is that working people are going to be expected to bear the brunt of the economic crisis as a result of Covid-19. It doesn’t have to be like that. The end of the furlough scheme is fast approaching and my very real fear is that without targeted and continued support the consequences for too many of my constituents will be dire. We will continue to press this Government to stand by working people and not leave them unprotected and unsupported.”