The Covid pandemic has led to the loss of about 660,000 jobs in the UK’s hospitality sector this year, the industry’s trade body has told MPs.

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls said that at the end of 2019, the sector was the third-largest employer in the UK.

The industry had been forecast to generate one-in-six net new jobs this year, she said, but the impact of Covid measures meant employment was down 20%.

Hospitality sector revenue is down 40% compared with last year, she said.

Ms Nicholls said businesses should be enjoying a “golden” time of year, since more than a third of annual revenue is usually earned between Halloween and New Year’s Eve.

But instead she said the sector was in “intensive care” and called for pubs and restaurants to be able to open with as few restrictions as safely possible in December.

Business leaders from a range of industries were giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee of MPs.

The boss of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson OBE, said there had been job losses across big and small retailers, particularly in clothing and footwear stores.

“I spoke to one business yesterday who has seen their turnover fall from $200m to $160m. They are on their third round of redundancies,” she said.

Covid: Hospitality boss says 660,000 jobs lost so far in 2020
Clothing and footwear stores have been hit particularly hard

Earlier, the chair of the BEIS Committee, Darren Jones, said it was unfair that some big retailers were able to keep trading during lockdown, while many small shops were closed.

Speaking to BBC 5 Live’s Wake Up To Money programme, Mr Jones said: “It’s evidently unfair that some retailers can sell everything and others cannot sell anything at all.”

He said it was “unfortunate” ministers had been unable to set out a mechanism for retailers to continue to operate in a Covid-secure way during lockdown, while other countries such as Germany had done so.

The Labour MP also called for more financial support to go to businesses forced to close, and criticised some supermarkets – which have stayed open during lockdowns – for accepting public money for help with business rates.

“Christmas is the most important time of the year for retailers and we don’t just want them to survive the Christmas shopping period but to be able to survive into the new year,” he said.

“Ministers need to quickly be able to get to a position where they can allow retailers to operate in a Covid-secure way.”