The UK unemployment rate edged up to 5.1 percent in the last three months of last year, the highest level in nearly five years, official data showed, as severe lockdown restrictions on COVID-19 weighed on the economy.
Figures published by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday show that the unemployment rate increased by 0.4 percentage points between early October and late December 2020.
The increase comes against the backdrop of regional and national restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Britain hard, killing more than 120,000 people and sparking its biggest fiscal slump in more than 300 years.
Even though a historic government-supported job retention scheme was launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis, overall, unemployment has risen 1.3 percent higher at the end of last year compared to December 2019, ONS figures show.
The number of payroll employees fell by 726,000 between February 2020 and January 2021, he said.
PM sets out a plan for easy locking
The gloomy ONS figures come as Britain’s finance minister, Rishi Sunak, is reportedly ready to spend billions of pounds in extra support for the economy over the next four months, in line with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to gradually ease Britain’s lockdown by the end of June. .
Sunak delivers an annual budget on March 3, when he intends to set up future government assistance programs including a leave scheme and a weekly additional 20 pounds ($ 28) in main unemployment benefits.
Announcing a so-called “road map” for easing restrictions on Monday, Johnson said his government would not abandon people and businesses in need of continued assistance from the state.
Non-essential retailers won’t reopen before April 12, at the earliest, under Johnson’s four-step strategy, while some businesses will remain closed until at least June 21.
“People may be concerned about what these changes mean for various packages of support for livelihoods, for communities and the economy,” Johnson told Parliament.
“We will not pull the rug. During the pandemic, governments will continue to do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK. “
‘Every job lost is a tragedy’
Johnson’s remarks pressured Sunak to extend his state-backed 70 billion pound ($ 98 billion) leave program, which expires on April 30, long before most social distancing restrictions will be lifted.
Under the current lockdown, people are encouraged to work from home whenever possible, while hotels and restaurants are closed to the public.
“On next week’s budget, I will set out the next phase of our Work Plan, and the support we will provide through the rest of our pandemic and recovery,” Sunak said in a statement.
“I know how hard it was last year for everyone and any job loss is a personal tragedy.”
So far, Sunak has spent more than 280 billion pounds ($ 395 billion) on COVID-19 measures, including health care, support payments and tax breaks, and government loans in the financial year that just ended will be the highest as a share of the economy since that. World War II.
He wants to reinstate last year’s job-support and unemployment benefits schemes before a spike in infections in the fall forces the government to extend support and late on to tighten lockdown rules.
The government said in a statement that Sunak would go into more detail about its long-term fiscal plans during next week’s annual budget announcement.
“It is not sustainable to borrow at the current rate in the medium term,” the document says. “This means the government has a responsibility, once the economy recovers, to return to a sustainable fiscal position.”
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