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Call for more support as unemployment increases to highest level for five years

The UK’s unemployment rose to a five year high in the three months to December, rising to 5.1% according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The statistics show 1.74 million people were unemployed in the October to December period, up 454,000 from the same quarter in 2019.

Some 726,000 fewer people are currently in payrolled employment than before the start of the pandemic. Almost three-fifths of these, 425,000, are aged under-25.

However, the ONS said that there were some “tentative early signs” that the labour market was stabilising, including a small increase in the numbers of employees paid through payroll over the past couple of months.

In January 2021, 83,000 more people were in payrolled employment when compared with the previous month.

Suren Thiru, the British Chambers of Commerce Head of Economic, said: “While the furlough scheme is limiting job losses, the rise in unemployment and decline in employment levels are further evidence that Coronavirus continues to weaken the UK labour market. 

“With firms facing a renewed cash crisis amid the current lockdown and the prospect of several more months of diminished demand and revenue before many can fully reopen, substantial job losses maybe inevitable if the support schemes wind down as planned. 

“Although the Government’s roadmap provides a way forward, the lack of clarity over the future path of fiscal support has left a damaging cliff edge for jobs and livelihoods. 

“It is vital that the Government support schemes, including furlough and business rates relief, are extended through the summer and wherever possible throughout 2021 to help protect jobs and power the recovery.” 

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