UK finance minister Rishi Sunak has claimed that he never promised that he would be able to safeguard every job in the country, after the nation posted the largest quarterly drop in employment in more than ten years.

Sunak downplayed the UK’s latest jobs data, which showed employment decreased by 220,000 from April to July. The country hasn’t seen such a grim figure since 2009. 

“I’ve always been clear that we can’t protect every job, but … we have a clear plan to protect, support and create jobs to ensure that nobody is left without hope,” the finance minister said. 

The number of workers on company payrolls have plunged by 730,000 since the UK shuttered “non-essential” businesses and imposed other measures purportedly designed to stop the spread of Covid-19. With many of the restrictions still in place, and “local” lockdowns enforced in some parts of the country, there are growing fears that the unemployment crisis will only worsen. 

Sunak, however, has resisted calls to extend Britain’s furlough scheme, which is designed to provide relief to workers affected by the lockdown. 

“It’s wrong to keep people trapped in a situation and pretend that there is always a job that they can go back to,” he said last week. 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is set to expire at the end of October.

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