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Unemployment Trends

Volume 680: debated on Monday 14 September 2020

Unemployment was little changed over the second quarter, with the latest official Office for National Statistics figures showing unemployment at 1.3 million. This is due to the unprecedented package of support the Chancellor put in place, protecting millions of jobs through the coronavirus job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme. We do recognise there are difficult times ahead, but our ambitious £30 billion plan for jobs will support people during the next phase of our recovery, as we build back better and greener.

Unemployment is soaring, uptake in benefits has skyrocketed and marginalised communities are bearing the brunt. Will the Minister urge the Chancellor to extend the job retention scheme to stop this vital safety net being snatched away from those struggling most in Portsmouth?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising issues in Portsmouth, where we are actively trying to help people to get back into work and to have the hope the hon. Gentleman mentions. We are currently working with a pop-up business school in his constituency and, coming up, he may be interested to know that in his local jobcentre there is a new mentoring circle with Maritime UK Solent, which up to 20 young people will get a chance to be part of, seeing the different employer pathways that are available in Portsmouth. He will be interested to know that our work coach recruitment to help people back into work is open, and ends on Wednesday, for people locally to apply.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan) just said, we face a tsunami of unemployment over the coming six to eight months, which I think the Minister would accept. Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said this morning that covid will not end at the end of October, so why should the furlough scheme? Business representatives have said that the furlough scheme in other countries, such as Germany and France, is offering a competitive advantage to those economies that we do not. Will the Minister please speak to the Chancellor and look for an extension of the furlough scheme, particularly on some sort of sectoral deal?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the need for local interventions in his constituency. I must say that his local jobcentre is doing fantastic work, particularly working with young people, and already has new dedicated work coaches to help people as they look to get back into work. We have a new virtual jobs board as well, and we are also working on a local place-based plan to help fill roles in sectors which we already could not fill coming into this, particularly in care homes. There are also roles with the DWP, which start next week, for people to apply for. But I do not think that keeping people in suspended animation and not giving them hope for the future is the way forward.

There is no doubt that the unemployment situation, bad as it is, would have been so much worse had it not been for the various schemes the Minister has talked about, which is why it is such a catastrophic error for the Government to end the furlough scheme in October. With that in mind, can the Minister tell us what estimate the Department has made of the level of unemployment this coming Christmas?

That is exactly why we have our plan for jobs—a £30 billion scheme, including £2 billion for the kickstart scheme. I am going to be boring about this, Mr Speaker. There is so much good work going on in the DWP and our JCPs locally to tackle what the hon. Gentleman has spoken about. There was an amazing opportunity just recently in his constituency regarding sector-based work academy programmes, and new virtual jobs fairs for kickstart are coming up in his constituency, as is more recruitment to help people get back into work, which will start near him next week. We are absolutely determined, with our plan for jobs, to see off that tsunami and give people the right skills and opportunities for the future.