Deserted high streets and city centres are hampering the economy’s coronavirus recovery, research suggests.
Staff continuing to work from home could send the country into a “jobs spiral” of deepening unemployment, experts warn.
Urban areas in southern England and Scotland are bearing the steepest declines in job vacancies, the Centre for Cities revealed.
A study by the think tank and jobs site Indeed found that seven months after the nationwide lockdown was imposed, vacancies have failed to return to pre-Covid levels in all 63 towns and cities analysed.
Aberdeen recorded the steepest fall with a 75% year-on-year decline, followed by Edinburgh with 57%, and Belfast and Crawley, West Sussex both on 55%.
London has seen the sixth biggest fall in job postings at 52%, while overall UK vacancies are 46% behind last year’s level, says the report.
The rise in people working from home has dried up demand for local services in big cities, according to the study.
While no area of the country or sector has escaped the labour market crisis, those where high street footfall returned to normal more quickly, such as Birkenhead on Merseyside, Chatham in Kent, and Hull, have seen a faster recovery in job vacancies.
Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: “While unemployment continues to rise, the number of jobs available to people who find themselves out of work is far below its level last year in every single large city and town in the UK.
“This could have potentially catastrophic long-term consequences for people and the economy.
“The Government has told us to expect a tough winter and while local lockdowns are necessary to protect lives, it is vital that ministers continue to listen and reassess the level of support given to help people and places to cope with the months ahead.
“The Chancellor made welcome amendments to the Job Support Scheme which should help save jobs, but many places across the country didn’t have enough jobs before the pandemic hit so creating more will be vital to prevent long-term economic damage to their local economies.”
Pawel Adrjan, of Indeed, said: “The timid recovery in job vacancies is a portent of the distress towns and cities could face if restrictions continue to spring up in parts of the country already reeling from imposed lockdowns and reduced footfall.
“With the remote working trend showing no sign of abating, and entire regions being placed under stricter control, service jobs in large towns and cities could become scarcer still and pull the UK into a jobs spiral.
“That could mean a very long winter ahead for the millions of people currently unemployed.”
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