UK unemployment falls to 5%
Unemployment in the UK has fallen for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began despite the toughest lockdown measures since the first wave spread a year ago, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics said the unemployment rate fell back slightly to 5% in the three months to January, representing 1.7 million people – down from 5.1% in the three months to December.
City economists had forecast a rise in the jobless rate to 5.2%. The government’s furlough scheme continues to support the jobs market, with nearly 5 million people still on the emergency wage scheme.
The latest snapshot showed a 68,000 increase in the number of workers on company payrolls in February, by compared with January, as the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions boosted prospects. It was the third consecutive monthly increase.
However, the number of people on payroll has plunged by 693,000 since the start of the pandemic, with younger workers under the age of 25 accounting for 60% of the jobs lost since February 2020. More than half of the fall was in hospitality, while almost a third was in London.
The unemployment rate remains 1.1 percentage points higher than a year ago before the pandemic struck. Figures compiled by the ONS also showed the number of non-UK born workers in the final quarter of 2020 was half a million lower than a year ago.