UK unemployment rate to surge 4.8 percent, coronavirus continued to hit the jobs market

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LONDON: The UK’s unemployment rate rose to 4.8% in the three months to September, up from 4.5%, as coronavirus continued to hit the jobs market. Redundancies rose to a record high of 314,000 in the same period, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Firms made more workers redundant in anticipation of the end of the furlough scheme, which was originally supposed to finish at the end of October. It has now been extended until the end of March.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Analysts said the extension had come “too late in the day” to save some jobs and further big rises in unemployment were likely in the coming months. The number of people out of work rose by 243,000 in the three-month period, the largest increase since May 2009.

The redundancy figure was higher, however, because it included people who may have lost their jobs and then retired or decided to stop looking for work. The ONS figures also showed there was a big rise in the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work. The unemployment rate among young people is far higher than the overall rate.

ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow told the BBC: “We’re seeing a continuation of a weakening of the labour market, fewer people on the payrolls and fewer people employed overall. That is now passing through to increasing unemployment altogether.”

He said the UK was starting to see people fall out of work in quite large numbers. However, there were still about 2.5 million people on furlough, with “quite a lot of uncertainty” about what would happen to them.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures underlined “the scale of the challenge” that the country was facing.”I know that this is a tough time for those who have sadly already lost their jobs, and I want to reassure anyone that is worried about the coming winter months that we will continue to support those affected and protect the lives and livelihoods of people across this country,” he added.

The government had extended the furlough scheme to protect jobs and launched the £2bn Kickstart programme to help young people, he said.