More than 60,000 jobs could be lost across Hertfordshire in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic - leaving the county with a "jobs problem" for the first time in a generation.

It was reported that by May the unemployment levels had increased to five per cent as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

But members of the county's councils growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy cabinet panel have heard that by the end of the year job losses in the county could top 60,000.

Neil Hayes from Hertfordshire LEP was speaking to a meeting of the cabinet panel on September 9 where he said the initial estimate were that job losses could top 100,000. But said this estimate had been revised downwards and said more would be known after the coronavirus job retention scheme (also known as furlough) ended in October.

He reported to councillors that as of July 163,000 employees in Hertfordshire were furloughed and that 52,600 claims had been made under the self employment income support scheme.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the county also reached 38,090 in July - three times high than the 12,710 claims made in July last year.

When looking at the data presented by Hertfordshire LEP the number of unemployment claims in July stood at 4,195 for Watford, 3,735 for St Albans, 2,735 for Three Rivers and 5,060 for Dacorum.

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It was said at a cabinet meeting that job losses could top 60,000. Credit: Pexels

Mr Hayes told the meeting that this recession was expected to be "significant in terms of jobs" in the county. He said in the past recession the county avoided the huge impact on jobs felt in other areas as increasing number of people commuted into London.

But said it would be "very different" this time and said there was likely to be a "jobs problem".

Nevertheless he said the economic fundamentals of Hertfordshire – such as its skilled workforce, connectivity and employment in growth sectors – were still in place and not broken. He suggested the county was in relatively position position in order to recover.

He said: "So our ability to bounce back should be more pronounced than other parts of the UK.

"However, we still need to understand what short term action is needed to help businesses bounce back. But also some of these things are going to lead to long term structural changes."

He said there were "big challenges" for high streets, suggesting that retail had already been headed for "choppy waters" even before the pandemic.

He said: "There are clearly big challenges for our high streets and town centres

"I also think there are big opportunities for towns in Hertfordshire to re-purpose some of those town centres for employment use – for digital remote working , for example."

When making the point he pointed to anecdotal evidence that businesses in London were looking for space outside the capital, where staff could "collaborate and work in a safe environment".

According to the data presented to the meeting, the Hertfordshire borough with the highest number of people furloughed in July was Dacorum, where the figure was 7200 – equivalent to 30 per cent of the workforce.

The areas with the greatest proportion of residents who had been furloughed were Broxbourne and Hertsmere, where the figure was 32 per cent. In Broxbourne that equated to 5100 employees and in Hertsmere 5900.