RURAL Dorset could be facing 15,000 job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic - the majority of them younger people, a report has revealed.

The figures come from a report to Dorset Council, which reveals the potential impact on jobs in the region compared to other areas nationally.

It says that almost 50,000 people in the council area have been furloughed during the Covid-19 lockdown, three quarters of them under 25.

The report states: “Of these it has been estimated that 40% (15,000) may not be able to return to their former employment due to redundancies and business closures.”

Councillors are being told that because of Dorset’s reliance on seasonal jobs, such as tourism and hospitality, the area is at a high risk of short-term job losses compared to many other parts of the country.

The report also says that while there may be hopes for the longer term there is also much uncertainty:

It reads: “Town centres have suffered from lockdown restrictions and the lack of visitors to Dorset, until recent weeks when restrictions were eased and considerable effort put into reopening high streets safely. The benefits of a shortened summer season, albeit not operating at full capacity, remain to be seen, as does the impact on business resilience, viability and capacity to invest for the future.

“The relative diversity of the Dorset economy has proved resilient to previous recessions. This together with low population density, less reliance upon some of the hardest hit industries, and fewer financially fragile households are features which may make Dorset more resilient than elsewhere.”

But the report warns of a rise in social problems. It says the pandemic has resulted in an increase of more than 50 per cent in homeless households, and as job losses increase, this may continue to rise.

By the end of July the council was looking after 335 homeless households in temporary accommodation, of which 139 were in bed and breakfast.

New strategies are being developed, including the possible use of hostels, but the success is likely to be dependent on whether or not the county can win extra Government funding, as its own financial situation, remains stretched with an estimated £43million budget gap by the end of the financial year.

Councillors will also be told that while there has been positives, in terms of volunteering and people looking out for others, there has inevitably been other downsides from lockdown, including an increase in children coming into care and other problems in and around the home.

The report reads: “We have seen an increase in domestic abuse, mental health and substance use issues, and are working with partners to respond to this and to prepare for potential increases in demand for our services over the coming months."