Unemployment rate in UK hits five-year high

23 Feb 2021

The unemployment rate in Britain increased to 5.1% in the three months to December, a five-year high, according to official figures out on Tuesday.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 1.74 million people were unemployed in Q4 last year, up 454,000 from Q4 in 2019.

In addition, around 425,000 of unemployed people are under 25 years of age, BBC reports.

That said, there were some "tentative early signs" of the labour market becoming more stable.

There was a minor rise in the number of employees on company payrolls over the last couple of months.

Last month, there were 83,000 more people in payrolled employment, compared to December.
According to Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics: "Our survey shows that the unemployment rate has had the biggest annual rise since the financial crisis.

"However, the proportion of people who are neither working nor looking for work has stabilised after rising sharply at the start of the pandemic, with many people who lost their jobs early on having now started looking for work."

That said, Athow told the BBC's Today programme that the true picture is not yet known due to the high numbers still on furlough.

He said data from the beginning of this month suggested around six million were still on furlough: "There is a huge amount of uncertainty about what will happen to them when that scheme ends."

Up to now, the Treasury has spent over £300 billion to bolster the economy during the Covid crisis, with the Job Retention Scheme due to expire at the end of April.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said of the figures: "I know how incredibly tough the past year has been for everyone, and every job lost is a personal tragedy.
"That's why throughout the crisis, my focus has been on doing everything we can to protect jobs and livelihoods.
"At the budget next week I will set out the next stage of our Plan for Jobs, and the support we'll provide through the remainder of the pandemic and our recovery."