EasyJet PLC and Bodycote PLC job cuts possibly just the cusp of coronavirus

Around one million companies are currently using the furlough scheme, with a survey finding that around a quarter saying they cannot afford to pay their staff

The economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to build, as easyJet PLC () and Bodycote PLC () said they will axe 4,500 and 700 jobs respectively.

Roughly a one in four companies say they cannot currently afford to pay staff that are on the government furlough scheme, according to a survey of business leaders also published today, which points to further heavy rounds of lay-offs later in the summer. 

In the past couple of months, the airline industry’s workers have been the first noticeable victims of the coronavirus pandemic, with the collapse of FlyBe into administration, followed by British Airways owner IAG () revealing plans to cut 12,000 staff, Ryanair () eyeing 3,000 job cuts and Virgin Atlantic around 3,150 jobs.

Suppliers followed, with engine maker Rolls Royce () axing 9,000 jobs and engineer Meggitt () saying it will reduce its global workforce by around 1,800.

Other industries are also shedding jobs as demand drops, with paving slab maker () saying it may cut up to 400 jobs permanently as part of a restructuring plan, plus privately owned companies including carmaker Mclaren axing 1,200 jobs and Ovo Energy planning to cut around 2,600 roles.

A victim more of the oil price fall, North Sea producer Enquest has said it is consulting on plans to axe 530 out 1,300 UK employees.

Unemployment claims rose by 856,500 in official universal credit claims figures published earlier this month, up from a mere 5,400 in March, taking the official claimant count to 2.1mln, around a third higher than the levels seen following the financial crisis.

This indicates an unemployment rate of 5.8% and points to rate as high as 9%, which would be above the worst we saw following the financial crisis, though still a long way behind the 22-25% rate expected in the US.

More cuts on the way

More cuts are undoubtedly on the way in the UK however, as the government furlough system winds down. 

October is when the UK job retention scheme is due to finish, with the Treasury confirming today that around 1mln companies have furloughed 8.4mln jobs, at a cost to the state of around £15bn.

From August, companies will be asked to cover about a quarter of the 80% government subsidy.

But an Institute of Directors survey published today found a fifth if companies claimed they will be able to afford to provide the 20% contribution of workers’ full-time salaries between August and October.

A quarter of respondents said that they could not afford any amount, which points to around a quarter of a million companies. 

Jonathan Geldart, director-general of the business lobby group, said: “The furlough scheme is protecting millions of jobs. Business leaders know that the government’s support can’t be infinite, but the ugly truth is that if there’s no money coming in the…

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