COVID-19 pandemic could lead to more than 60,000 job losses in Hertfordshire

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to lead to more than 60,000 job losses in Hertfordshire by the end of the year, as the...

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to lead to more than 60,000 job losses in Hertfordshire by the end of the year, as the grip of the recession tightens. Picture: Sarah Allison - Credit: Sarah Allison

More than 60,000 jobs could be lost across Hertfordshire in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the county with an unemployment problem for the first time in a generation.

Before the start of the pandemic, jobs in Herts were relatively easy to find and unemployment levels ran at around two per cent.

But by May, it has been reported, unemployment levels had increased to five per cent, and now members of Herts County Council’s Growth, Infrastructure, Planning and Economy Cabinet Panel have heard job losses in the county could top 60,000 by the end of the year.

Speaking at a meeting of the cabinet panel last Wednesday, Neil Hayes, chief executive of the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said more will be known after furlough ends in October.

He told councillors that, as of July, 163,000 employees in Herts were furloughed – 28 per cent of the overall workforce – and 52,600 claims had been made under the Self Employment Income Support Scheme – a take-up rate of 76 per cent. Mr Hayes also said the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits had reached 38,090 in July – three times higher than the 12,710 claiming in July 2019 – and that around 150,000 residents are now working remotely rather than going to their usual workplace.

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He told councillors this recession is expected to be “significant in terms of jobs” in the county and there is likely to be “a jobs problem”.

However, Mr Hayes also said the economic fundamentals of Hertfordshire – such as its skilled workforce, connectivity and employment in growth sectors – are still in place. “So our ability to bounce back should be more pronounced than other parts of the UK,” he said, continuing: “However, we still need to understand what short-term action is needed to help businesses bounce back. Some of these things are going to lead to long-term structural changes. There are clearly big challenges for our high streets and town centres.

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“I also think there are big opportunities for towns in Herts to re-purpose some of those town centres for employment use – for digital remote working, for example.” In making the point, he highlighted anecdotal evidence businesses in London are looking for space outside the capital.

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