Fresh measures needed to prop up UK economy, Bank official says
Fresh action will be needed to support Britain’s economy as it emerges from a temporary sweet spot caused by massive government financial support and the lifting of lockdown restrictions, a Bank of England policymaker has said.
Michael Saunders, one of the nine members of Threadneedle Street’s interest rate-setting monetary policy committee, said he expected unemployment to rise rapidly as the Treasury scaled back its help and more people started to look for work.
“The economy’s faster than expected rebound in the last few months has reflected a benign window in which large fiscal support has coincided with the relaxation of lockdown measures and low infection rates. This window may now be closing,” Saunders said.
Tentative signs that the UK’s recovery is losing momentum were provided by the monthly survey of construction – which accounts for 6% of the economy’s output – from CIPS/Markit. This showed the pace of expansion eased in August.
Saunders used a webinar speech to highlight a number of risks to the economy, including the growing possibility that the UK will fail to agree a comprehensive trade deal with the EU.
UK retail and hospitality job cuts on back of Covid-19 crisis
Costa Coffee – 1,650 jobs
3 September: The company, which was bought by Coca-Cola two years ago, is cutting up to 1,650 jobs in its cafes, more than one in 10 of its workforce. The assistant store manager role will go across all shops.
Pret a Manger – 2,890 jobs
27 August: The majority of the cuts are focused on the sandwich chain’s shop workers, but 90 roles will be lost in its support centre teams. The cuts include the 1,000 job losses announced on 6 July.
Marks & Spencer – 7,000 jobs
18 August: Food, clothing and homewares retailer cuts jobs in central support centre, regional management and stores.
M&Co – 400 jobs
5 August: M&Co, the Renfrewshire-based clothing retailer, formerly known as Mackays, will close 47 of 215 stores.
WH Smith – 1,500 jobs
5 August: The chain, which sells products ranging from sandwiches to stationery, will cut jobs mainly in UK railway stations and airports.
Pizza Express – 1,100 jobs
4 August: The restaurant chain plans the closure of 70 restaurants as part of a rescue restructure deal.
Dixons Carphone – 800 jobs
4 August: Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone is cutting 800 managers in its stores as it continues to reduce costs.
DW Sports – 1,700 jobs at risk
3 August: DW Sports fell into administration, closing its retail website immediately and risking the closure of its 150 gyms and shops.
Marks & Spencer – 950 jobs
20 July: The high street stalwart cuts management jobs in stores as well as head office roles related to property and store operations.
Ted Baker – 500 jobs
19 July: About 200 roles to go at the fashion retailer’s London headquarters, the Ugly Brown Building, and the remainder at stores.
Azzurri – 1,200 jobs
17 July: The owner of the Ask Italian and Zizzi pizza chains closes 75 restaurants and makes its Pod lunch business delivery only
Burberry – 500 jobs worldwide
15 July: Total includes 150 posts in UK head offices as luxury brand tries to slash costs by £55m after a slump in sales during the pandemic.
Boots – 4,000 jobs
9 July: Boots is cutting 4,000 jobs – or 7% of its workforce – by closing 48 opticians outlets and reducing staff at its head office in Nottingham as well as some management and customer service roles in stores.
John Lewis – 1,300 jobs
9 July: John Lewis announced that it is planning to permanently close eight of its 50 stores, including full department stores in Birmingham and Watford, with the likely loss of 1,300 jobs.
Celtic Manor – 450 jobs
9 July: Bosses at the Celtic Collection in Newport, which staged golf’s Ryder Cup in 2010 and the 2014 Nato Conference, said 450 of its 995 workers will lose their jobs.
Pret a Manger – 1,000 jobs
6 July: Pret a Manger is to permanently close 30 branches and could cut at least 1,000 jobs after suffering “significant operating losses” as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown
Casual Dining Group – 1,900 jobs
2 July: The owner of the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas restaurant chains collapsed into administration, with the immediate loss of 1,900 jobs. The company said multiple offers were on the table for parts of the business but buyers did not want to acquire all the existing sites and 91 of its 250 outlets would remain permanently closed.
Arcadia – 500 jobs
1 July: Arcadia, Sir Philip Green’s troubled fashion group – which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Evans and Wallis – said in July 500 head office jobs out of 2,500 would go in the coming weeks.
SSP Group – 5,000 jobs
1 July: The owner of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza is to axe 5,000 jobs, about half of its workforce, with cuts at its head office and across its UK operations after the pandemic stalled domestic and international travel.
Harrods – 700 jobs
1 July: The department store group is cutting one in seven of its 4,800 employees because of the “ongoing impacts” of the pandemic.
Harveys – 240 jobs
30 June: Administrators made 240 redundancies at the furniture chain Harveys, with more than 1,300 jobs at risk if a buyer cannot be found.
TM Lewin – 600 jobs
30 June: Shirtmaker TM Lewin closed all 66 of its outlets permanently, with the loss of about 600 jobs.
Monsoon Accessorize – 545 jobs
11 June: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by their founder, Peter Simon, in June, in a deal in which 35 stores closed permanently and 545 jobs were lost.
Mulberry – 470 jobs
8 June: The luxury fashion and accessories brand is to cut 25% of its global workforce and has started a consultation with the 470 staff at risk.
The Restaurant Group – 3,000 jobs
3 June: The owner of dining chains such as Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s has closed most branches of Chiquito and all 11 of its Food & Fuel pubs, with another 120 restaurants to close permanently. Total job losses could reach 3,000.
Clarks – 900 jobs
21 May: Clarks plans to cut 900 office jobs worldwide as it grapples with the growth of online shoe shopping as well as the pandemic.
Oasis and Warehouse – 1,800 jobs
30 April: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by the restructuring firm Hilco in April, with all of their stores permanently closed and 1,800 jobs lost.
Cath Kidston – 900 jobs
21 April: More than 900 jobs were cut immediately at the retro retail label Cath Kidston after the company said it was permanently closing all 60 of its UK stores.
Debenhams – 4,000 jobs
9 April: At least 4,000 jobs will be lost at Debenhams in its head office and closed stores after its collapse into administration in April, for the second time in a year.
Laura Ashley – 2,700 jobs
17 March: Laura Ashley collapsed into administration, with 2,700 job losses, and said rescue talks had been thwarted by the pandemic.
The Bank has been working on the assumption that talks between London and Brussels will bear fruit, but Saunders said the “risks probably lie on the side of a thinner trade deal, a less-smooth transition, or more persistent Brexit-related uncertainty. More generally, global trade policy uncertainty remains high.”
Saunders said he thought it unlikely that the economy’s recovery over the next two years would be as strong as the MPC forecast last month, when it pencilled in expansion of 9% in 2021 and just under 4% in 2022. The Bank would need to provide additional stimulus to support activity and prevent inflation persistently undershooting the government’s 2% target.
Noting that the economy’s “very limited sweet spot may now be fading”, Saunders said unemployment was likely to rise significantly over the coming quarters.
He said the total number of hours worked had fallen by 18% between the first and second quarters; there had been a sharp rise in the number of people temporarily away from paid work; and there had been a jump in the number of people working fewer hours than normal.
“These measures all signal very significant weakness in the labour market. The stability of the official data on jobs and unemployment are outliers in the general picture of severe weakness.”
He said the proportion of the workforce furloughed had dropped from 30% to 11% since May, with those remaining on the wage subsidy scheme likely to be concentrated among firms not trading or suffering from weak demand.
“This implies that, of those still on furlough, a relatively high share may become unemployed.”
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