The UK unemployment rate edged up to 5.1% in the last three months of last year, its highest level in nearly five years, official data shows, amid tight lockdown restrictions COVID-19 have put pressure on the economy.
Figures released by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday show that the unemployment rate rose 0.4 percentage points between the start of October and the end of December 2020.
The rise came against the backdrop of regional and national restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the UK hard, killing more than 120,000 people and triggering its biggest budget recession yet 300 years old.
Despite a historic government-backed job retention program rolled out in response to the COVID-19 crisis, overall unemployment had risen 1.3% at the end of last year compared to to December 2019, according to ONS figures.
The number of salaried employees fell by 726,000 between February 2020 and January 2021, he said.
PM draws up plan to facilitate lockdown
The grim ONS figures come as UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly ready to spend billions of pounds to further support the economy over the next four months, in line with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to Gradually ease England’s lockdown by the end of June. .
Sunak presents an annual budget on March 3, when he intends to define the future of government assistance programs, including the leave scheme and a weekly supplement of £ 20 ($ 28) to the main benefit of unemployment.
Announcing his so-called “road map” to easing restrictions on Monday, Johnson said his government would not abandon the people and businesses in need of the state’s continued help.
Non-essential retailers won’t reopen until April 12, at the earliest, as part of 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 the various programs supporting livelihoods, people and the economy,” Johnson told Parliament.
“We will not remove the mat. Throughout the duration of the pandemic, the government will continue to do everything in its power to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK.
“ Every job lost is a tragedy ”
Johnson’s remarks pressured Sunak to extend the state-backed 70 billion pound ($ 98 billion) holiday program, which is due to expire on April 30, well before most of the restrictions on social distancing is not lifted.
Under the current foreclosure rules, people are encouraged to work from home when possible, while hotels and restaurants are closed to the public.
“In next week’s budget, I will outline the next step in our plan for jobs and the support we will provide through the remainder of the pandemic and our recovery,” Sunak said in a statement.
“I know how extremely difficult the past year has been for everyone and every job lost is a personal tragedy.”
So far, Sunak has spent more than 280 billion pounds ($ 395 billion) on COVID-19 measures, including health care, child support payments and tax breaks, and government borrowing in the fiscal year just ended will be the highest percentage of the economy since World War II.
He was keen to limit the job support scheme and unemployment benefits last year before a spike in infections in the fall forced the government to extend aid and belatedly tighten lockdown rules.
The government said in a statement that Sunak will set out more details on its long-term budget plans when announcing next week’s annual budget.
“It is not sustainable to borrow at this current level in the medium term,” the document says. “This means that the government has a responsibility, once the economy recovers, to return to a sustainable fiscal position.”