UK jobs support must last until COVID crisis over - BoE's Haldane

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: The Chief Economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, listens from the audience at an event at the Bank of England in the City of London

LONDON (Reuters) -The British government's coronavirus jobs support should end only when the pandemic crisis is over, Bank of England interest rate-setter Andy Haldane told the Guardian newspaper, saying unemployment was "public enemy number one".

"I think the right time to signal and to execute on that reduction in insurance is when you actually see the risks being reduced for people in terms of their jobs and for businesses in terms of their viability," Haldane said in an interview.

British finance minister Rishi Sunak last week extended his job retention scheme by a month until the end of April ahead of the government tightening its COVID-19 restrictions once again.

The Guardian said it conducted its interview with Haldane before the latest restrictions were introduced.

Haldane told the newspaper Britain's unemployment rate was probably above 6% - compared with the most recent official reading of 4.9% - although the rise had so far been less steep than the BoE feared.

He said the central bank would continue to provide monetary policy support for as long as it was needed.

On the outlook for the economy, Haldane was quoted as saying he was hopeful of a rapid bounce-back in activity thanks to progress with vaccines, echoing previous comments he has made, but "the risks are still with us and the risks are still real."

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Kate Holton)