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Redundancy figures show economic damage caused by Covid

As we know, the pandemic is not just devastating in terms of for public health but is also severely impacting the economic wellbeing of Northern Ireland.

The unprecedented lockdown saw tens of thousands of people suddenly and unexpectedly unable to do the jobs that sustained their families, put a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Virtually overnight we witnessed the closure of much of the hospitality and retail industry, while workers in a range of sectors including hairdressing and taxi driving, tourism and the arts, watched helplessly as their expected income dried up completely or was reduced to a trickle.

The British government's furlough scheme has provided a vital lifeline for many businesses and their employees but as the crisis has gone on, it is clear it has not been able to safeguard every job.

A sense of the scale of the economic damage caused by coronavirus has been provided by the latest figures showing the number of redundancies proposed for Northern Ireland, which has doubled in a year.

We are told there were 10,720 collective redundancies proposed to the end of November, with 10,000 of those since March when the pandemic took hold.

According to Nisra, approximately half of the redundancies were in the manufacturing, and wholesale and retail sectors.

The north's unemployment rate is now 3.9 per cent which is up 1.6 per cent on last year.

It is sobering to look back at the position late last year, when it was reported that the jobless rate was at a record low of just 2.5 per cent while the employment rate stood at 72.3 per cent, which was a record high.

Such a positive picture seems very far removed from the rather bleak situation facing so many people at the end of 2020.

It is not just the loss of existing jobs but there will be a real concern about future employment prospects and the likelihood of growth in sectors that have been especially hard hit.

The rollout of the vaccine at least provides hope that the economy can begin to recover during 2021.

However, some businesses that have been shut down by Covid-19 will never reopen and jobs that had seemed secure before the pandemic will be lost for good and that is the grim reality for many people this Christmas.

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