UK workers’ fears for their jobs have soared to an eight-year high and households are tightening their belts, a survey shows as the economic fallout of the coronavirus continues to grow.
A poll published on Monday shows British households are at their most pessimistic over their job security in more than eight years. Workers in media, culture and entertainment were most fearful, followed by those in manufacturing.
Public appetite for major purchases also slid at its fastest rate in more than seven years, suggesting a drop-off in consumer spending may exacerbate Britain’s economic slowdown.
Around 1,500 people were surveyed in the poll by IHS Markit and Ipsos Mori last week.
The headline figure on the monthly index, measuring overall perceptions of financial wellbeing, dropped from 47.6 to 42.5, its lowest since May last year. A figure above 50 illustrates an improvement, and below 50 signals a decline.
Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey, said consumers were already “feeling the financial pinch” of COVID-19. “People seem rightfully concerned whether or not they will be able to pay their bills in the coming months.”
But the survey was carried out before UK chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled an unprecedented package of wage subsidies for employers on Friday to prevent mass job losses.
The UK government has offered to pay 80% of the wages of ‘furloughed workers’ who would otherwise have been laid off because of the hit from the coronavirus and the growing economic shutdown.
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s administration had faced criticism for not doing more to safeguard jobs, with firms warning a £330bn package of loans and guarantees did not go far enough.
UKHospitality, a trade body for one of the sectors hardest hit by government-ordered ‘social distancing’ measures, warned 500,000 jobs may already have been axed before the announcement.