Asked about those from hard hit sectors such as aviation, Ms Coffey said the situation also depended on decisions by foreign governments, adding: “So, that’s why I have always encouraged people to consider what skills they have, even if it’s a temporary change in job until perhaps we get the world through this pandemic.
“I’m quite conscious things like retail is certainly going through a structural change and whether all the habits will come back.”
There are an estimated 188,000 job vacancies at hospitality firms – about nine per cent of the industry. Just yesterday the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also announced moves to loosen rules on lorry drivers’ hours due to staff shortages.
During the interview, Ms Coffey also acknowledged some furloughed workers may lose their jobs when the scheme cuts off at the end of September but insisted the Government was “ready” to help get them into work.
Figures published by the Treasury last week show 2.4 million people remain furloughed or flexi-furloughed down from a peak of nearly 9 million at the height of the pandemic in May last year.
Ms Coffey said it was the “decision of the employer” rather than the Government whether people lose their job when the support drops off.
However, the Cabinet minister said she hoped employers will have confidence to keep workers on as the economy fully opens up, coupled with the vaccine roll out.
She said: “I’m not going to predict the future, to be open with you, on what’s going to happen with furlough.
“It does expire at the end of September. I’m not going to be gloomy about it – but we’re ready, I think is the point, to help people who may sadly end up losing their job.
“Sadly, if more people do lose their jobs due to economic conditions then we’re there to help and get people back into work.”
Ms Coffey stressed support was there for jobseekers including the Government’s Job Help website, thousands of work coaches and programmes such as the Sector-based Work Academy Programme [SWAP]. The Government has also opened up more than 100 temporary jobcentres.
The Secretary of State made the comments on the one year anniversary of the Plan for Jobs when the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a range of employment support.
She was speaking as part of a visit to meet jobseekers at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London who are training to work in construction as part SWAP.
The scheme helps people retrain and build up skills in order to start new careers and fill vacancies in growing sectors. Almost 65,000 people across England and Scotland enrolled in the programme since March 2020.
Ms Coffey said they were guaranteed an interview at the end of the programme, adding: “I’m hopeful these people will be getting a job at the end of it.”
Adelina Lourenco, 35, from Enfield, secured a job with civil engineering company Sixense a few weeks after completing a SWAP at the college.
Her contract came to an end as the first lockdown started and she found it hard to get a job at such a “worrying time”, adding: “The pandemic meant the future was very uncertain and I didn’t know if the situation was ever going to change.”
Ms Lourenco said SWAP improved her CV and built up her confidence, adding: “When I got a job, it was such a relief. I’m so pleased to be getting my career back on track.”
Chancellor Mr Sunak told Sky News: “The unemployment numbers are far lower than we feared a year ago when I stood up and outlined the Plan for Jobs.
“I’m absolutely delighted that it is working and it doesn’t end here. We’ve got support that continues throughout the year and we want to drive our recovery forward now and that’s what I know we can achieve.”