The crisis is said to have wiped out five years of employment growth in a hammer blow to the economy.
The Institute for Employment Studies says Britain’s unemployment rate has soared because of the pandemic, going from 3.9 per cent to around 7.5 per cent of the workforce.
They said: “It is highly unlikely that we will see a steep recovery in employment or unemployment in the near future, and we expect that it will take years rather than months for the labour market to fully recover.
“These ‘scarring’ effects are likely to be particularly pronounced in this recession, as the nature of the lockdown means that those who become unemployed now will find it harder and take longer to get a new job.”
They say employment in Britain has fallen by 1.5-2 million, equivalent to 5 per cent of all of those in work.
This would be more than double the 740,000 who lost their jobs during the 2008 financial crisis.
The latest GDP figures show things were bad even before the virus hit, with the UK economy growing just 0.1 per cent in the three months to February.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics also show the economy shrank 0.1 per cent during February.
Rob Kent-Smith of the ONS said: “Today’s figures show that in the three months to February, which was before the full effects of coronavirus took hold, the economy continued to show little to no growth.”
Last month the the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicted the epidemic would see the UK plunged into a recession.
It comes as 1.2 million applied for Universal Credit with many saying they’ve been stuck in an online queuing system.
Speaking to ITV’s Peston, Work and Pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “It’s now been just over 1.2 million in just over three weeks.
“Given our average daily is about 10 to 12,000 that’s still a significant number.
“And it’s not solely people who necessarily have lost their job, it may be the case it’s people who are now self-employed, and their incomes have fallen significantly, and they’re applying for Universal Credit as well to help them in the short term.”
A massive 2.5 million Brits are already on UC, with more expected to apply as the pandemic continues.
It comes just days after it emerged one million firms are set to shut because banks are refusing to give them the loans they need to survive.
Firms all over Britain have revealed their fury after being either refused emergency loans, or left unable to even speak to banks on the phone.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak earlier unveiled a massive overhaul of the Government’s bailout scheme after banks blocked businesses from getting the help they need because of the coronavirus crisis.
He vowed the Government will pay up to 80 per cent of wages – or up to £2,500 a month – for people who are not working but kept on payroll.