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Eating Out Scheme Is a Success But Employment Numbers Suffer Dramatic Fall

The UK’s recovery from the period of lockdown continues to provide a mixture of positive and negative news. In the last day or so, we have seen encouraging signs from the government’s dining out scheme, while employment numbers have fallen at a rate not seen since the last recession.

More Brits Are Eating Out

In the first week of the “eat out to help out” scheme, around 10 and a half million people used it to dine in selected restaurants. The Treasury’s plan to help the hospitality industry recover gives a 50% discount of up to £10 per person at certain restaurants from Monday to Wednesday.

This scheme will run up to the end of August and the government has set aside £500 million to cover the cost. HMRC states that it has received details of 10,540,396 individual meals that were eaten up to 9 August.

Going into further details, the average cost of the claim is said to be around £5. This would mean that the cost of the first week of the scheme runs at close to £50 million. A total of over 83,000 restaurants have joined the scheme, from multinational chains to small cafes.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who launched the plan, called the way that it has been accepted by diners as “amazing”. He pointed out that anyone who uses the scheme gets a great deal and is also “supporting” almost 2 million people who work in the food industry.

The UK’s high streets and other retail sites saw an 18.9% increase in footfall between Monday and Wednesday last week, with lunchtime visits rising by 9.6%. This is good news for hard-pressed retailers currently relying on paying collection agency fees to recover debts and stay afloat.

A Big Drop in Employment Numbers

On the other hand, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK has just witnessed its sharpest drop in employment since the last financial crisis.

The number of people on the country’s payrolls is 730,000 lower than it was in March of this year. However, the number of people officially unemployed hasn’t risen much because many of those now out of work aren’t yet looking for a new job.

According to the ONS, those who are suffering most because of the effects of the lockdown are part-time, self-employed and older workers. The split between male and female workers is said to be fairly equal.

Between April and June, the total number of people in employment dropped by 220,000, to a new total of 32.92 million. This is the biggest quarterly decrease in employed numbers since the May to July period of 2009.

Average earnings have declined, while the number of hours worked across Britain dropped to a new record low. Part of this comes down to the fact that 7.5 million were on furlough in June, with the government paying 80% of their salaries. It has also been reported that 300,000 employees were staying away from their workplaces but receiving no pay.

It is feared that the unemployment rate will climb sharply in the autumn months, as the furlough scheme finally comes to an end.