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How coronavirus destroyed jobs across the UK economy in 2020

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc in Britain’s labour market, with a health crisis becoming a jobs crisis throughout 2020.

Mass redundancies hit the headlines throughout the year, despite the government’s furlough scheme, loans and grants, as well as employment growth in a handful of sectors. Many employers buckled under the weight of the virus, lockdown curbs, wind-downs of government support and weak prospects for recovery.

Many sectors have been affected, with firms from supermarket Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) and Lloyds bank (LLOY.L) to building manufacturer Caterpillar and newspaper giant Reach axing thousands of jobs in one brutal week in November alone.

But travel, shopping, leisure and hospitality have been among the hardest-hit sectors. Here are some of the most high-profile job cuts they have seen, based on PA and Yahoo Finance UK analysis and including the total confirmed or potential job losses announced by companies at the time:

Travel — passenger numbers collapse and quarantines hurt firms

Airline chiefs called 2020 the “worst year in the history of aviation,” and revenues plummeted across the travel industry amid worldwide government restrictions and customer fears over trips overseas.

• Airlines — EasyJet (EZJ.L) was one of the first to announce mass cuts, putting up to 4,500 staff at risk in May. British Airways (IAG.L), Ryanair (RYA.L), and Virgin Atlantic followed soon after with more than 18,000 roles at risk between them, with BA redundancies while it received government furlough cash sparking a furious backlash.

• Airports — Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands, London City, Gatwick, Heathrow, and Belfast airports were among those cutting jobs directly as demand nosedived, while baggage handler Swissport blamed quarantine rules and furlough grant cuts as it axed 4,500 roles nationwide.

• Aerospace manufacturers — Planemaker Airbus (AIR.PA) announced 15,000 job losses in June, including 1,700 UK roles, while Bombardier also culled 2,500 workers worldwide in June, forecasting a 30% drop in jet sales. Enginemaker Rolls-Royce (RR.L) announced 9,000 job cuts worldwide in May, in a “body blow” for towns reliant on its factories.

Shopping and leisure — high street woes as spending slumps

The shutdown of “non-essential” retail earlier this year, curbs on gatherings and customers’ virus fears have hammered many organisations, staff and freelancers in the retail, leisure, entertainment, arts and events industries. The most high-profile job cuts included:

• Fashion chains — Household names wielded the axe throughout the year. Oasis Warehouse axed 2,000 staff as it collapsed and Cath Kidston axed 900 as it closed every store in April, Clarks cut 900 office roles in May, Monsoon Accessorize axed 545 jobs and TM Lewin axed 600 as stores shut in June, Topshop owner Arcadia cut 500 HQ jobs in July before its collapse threatened all 13,000 staff, River Island and M&Co each axed more than 300 jobs each in August, and Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s near-collapse in October left around 24,000 staff at risk.

• Department stores and general retailers — Debenhams announced several culls including up to 2,500 jobs in August before its liquidation threatened 12,000 roles. Other department stores Marks & Spencer (7,950 at risk, MKS.L), the John Lewis Partnership (2,800), Harrods (700) and Selfridges (450) also suffered from plummeting footfall. WH Smith (SMWH.L) said 1,500 roles could go as rail station sales slumped 73% in July, and another 200 in November.

• Leisure organisations — In July casino firm Genting said 1600 could face redundancy in July, while Buzz Bingo said 26 permanent site closures put 600 at risk. 1,700 jobs were at risk from gym and retailer DW Sports’ administration in August. Cineworld (CINE.L) warned the cinema industry was unviable as it temporarily shut branches in October, threatening 5,500 jobs.

Hospitality firms — curfews and constant curbs wreck trade

Hospitality firms have been at the forefront of the crisis, with curbs from total shutdown to a 10pm curfew and local lockdowns hobbling their ability to trade throughout the year.

• Restaurants — High street stalwarts and independents alike have been left reeling, with sites closing and some firms collapsing altogether despite the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Confirmed or threatened job cuts included Chiquito (1,500), Carluccio’s (1,000), Azzurri (1,200), Byron (650), Pizza Express (2,400), The Restaurant Group (3,000, RTN.L), Casual Dining Group (1,900), Burger King (1,600), Gourmet Burger Kitchen (360), and Pizza Hut (450).

• Cafes — Remote working and declining travel have hit many cafes in city and town centres and stations hard on top of direct restrictions. Firms wielding the axe included Le Pain Quotidien in June (200 jobs), SSP in July (5,000 at risk, SSPG.L), Yo! Sushi (250) and Greggs in August (800, GRG.L), Costa in September (1,650), and Pret A Manger in three rounds in July, August and October (3,200).

• Pubs and bars — Pub chiefs said 90% of pubs couldn’t make a profit in October as COVID-19’s resurgence strangled a summer rebound. Wetherspoon’s (JDW.L) announced up to 130 job cuts in August, and another 450 were placed at risk in September. Greene King (GNK.L) and Marston’s (MARS.L) blamed curbs as they axed 800 and 2,150 staff each in October. November saw Mitchells and Butlers (MAB.L), owner of Harvester and All Bar One, reveal 1,300 job cuts, pub group Fuller, Smith & Turner (FSTA.L) reveal a 20% cull in 2020, and Revolution Bars axe 130 staff.
Source: Yahoo Finance

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