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Rise in unemployment as over 1,000 seek jobs

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THE number of jobseekers in Jersey rose sharply at the end of last month, with the real level of unemployment likely to be much higher than official figures suggest, it has been claimed.

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The latest Actively Seeking Work report, produced by Statistics Jersey, says that on 31 March a total of 1,010 Islanders were officially looking for employment, which was 170 higher than 12 months ago.

The figure was also 140 higher than on 31 December 2019 and the highest level recorded since August 2017, bringing to an end a lengthy period of, officially, nearly full employment.

Industry figures and statisticians have both said that they believe that the real unemployment levels are much worse and likely to rise due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Earlier this week, logistics company Paul Davies Freight shut down, with the loss of 30 jobs in Jersey. Meanwhile, the closure of the Rainbow Tots nursery was announced yesterday, creating 32 more redundancies.

Simon Soar, president of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said that a survey his organisation had carried out indicated the true figures of unemployment were much higher than the ASW report suggested.

‘Early on in this, 90 of our members said that they had had to make 700 redundancies. And that’s a small of number of all the businesses,’ he said.

‘So, the actual number of unemployed will be much higher than the figures in the report.

‘The next figures produced will be much more accurate.’

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Mr Soar said that a ‘worrying’ number of hospitality firms had indicated to him that they might not return to business once the crisis is over.

He added: ‘There is also a lot of concern still over the government payroll support scheme, where they pay 80% of wages while the business pays 20%.

‘A lot of businesses have no money at this time, so they cannot afford to pay the 20%’

Graeme Smith, chief executive of Jersey Business, said that some firms he had dealt with had reported job losses, and construction and hospitality seemed to be the worst-affected sectors.

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‘We have spoken to about 1,000 different firms in terms of giving support.

‘The majority have decided they are going to work through this and not lay staff off,’ he said.

‘In the construction sector some businesses have laid staff off but will be looking to re-employ once the crisis is over.

‘What a lot of businesses are waiting for is more detail on phase two of the government payroll scheme. They will be able to make a decision after that.’

In response to the crisis, which has caused a huge economic shock, Statistics Jersey is due to publish the ASW report every month rather than every quarter.

The report itself says that the actual level of unemployment is likely to be much higher than the latest figures suggest and is likely to climb.

‘The numbers presented in this report relate only to voluntarily registered persons and persons whose income-support applications have been processed,’ the report says.

‘These numbers do not show the full extent of unemployment in the Island, at that date or more recently.

‘As people apply and are assessed by Customer and Local Services, the ASW numbers will become more representative of the Island’s unemployment situation.’

The government’s press office was contacted for comment.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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