Sunak Says Priority Is Protecting Jobs as U.K. Leaves Lockdown

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said his priority is to protect British jobs as the U.K. emerges from a lockdown that’s plunged the economy into recession and left millions of workers depending on government support.

“There are very tragic projections for what might happen to employment, there’s enormous dislocation in the labor market,” Sunak told Bloomberg TV in an interview on Friday. “My priority absolutely is to try and protect and preserve as many of those jobs as possible.”

Sunak, 40, spoke to Bloomberg days before he’s due to set out measures to stimulate the economy after a three-month lockdown that’s left the government paying the wages of almost 12 million private sector workers.

The economic toll is stark: The British economy shrank by a fifth in April, jobless claims doubled to almost 3 million and the national debt has risen above 100% of gross domestic product for the first time since 1963. Sunak now faces the challenge of unwinding his business support programs without destroying jobs, so the economy is in the best possible position to bounce back.

Sunak’s number two at the Treasury, Steve Barclay, late Thursday told the BBC the department’s focus is “jobs, particularly for young people” and that the chancellor’s statement in July would be about “how we green the economy, how we respond with infrastructure projects.”

No firm date has yet been set for the statement.

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