Monday 23 March 2020 10:45 am

UK job security perception plunges as coronavirus spreads

Britons are more worried about their employment prospects than at any time since 2011 as confidence in the economy plunges due to the coronavirus pandemic, a survey has shown.

UK consumers also plan to slash their spending on major purchases at the fastest rate since 2012, data firm IHS Markit’s household finance index showed today.

The stark survey data showed the effect coronavirus containment efforts are having on households as businesses shut and people stay inside while the virus spreads. 

There have now been more than 280 confirmed deaths from the virus in the UK from more than 5,600 confirmed cases.

The IHS Markit household finance index fell sharply to 42.5 in March from 47.6 in February.  “UK consumers are already feeling the financial pinch of coronavirus,” said IHS Markit economist Joe Hayes said. 

However, the survey was carried out between 12 and 17 March, before chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a huge economic stimulus programme that will see the state pay many workers’ wages.

Yet strict containment measures – such as the closure of pubs and restaurants – announced since then could slow the economy further. Economists say it is too difficult to predict what the full effects will be.

UK households were their most pessimistic about job security since December 2011 in March, the survey data showed. The most downbeat were those employed in media, culture and entertainment.

“Major purchases are being shunned in response to the worsening outlook for financial wellbeing,” Hayes said, “while the survey data suggest that workplace activity fell at the fastest rate since 2009.”

Official economic growth data is released with around a two month delay, so economists and policymakers are nervously awaiting survey data. Surveys released tomorrow will give an early indication of how services and manufacturing companies coped with the coronavirus outbreak in March.