ONS data | Unemployment in UK hits four-year high

Unemployment in UK hits four-year high

According to the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), unemployment throughout the UK is currently at the highest level in more than four years.

The Guardian reported that the unemployment rate within the UK rose to five per cent in the three months leading to the end of November.

This represents around 1.7million people, whilst in the three months leading to October, the rate remained under 4.9%.

The drastic rise is up from just four per cent in late 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK.

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The ONS data also noted in its report that redundancies were hitting new highs during the quarter as companies wrestle with the reality of further long-term closures.

In a recent BBC report, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the nation was far from easing restrictions despite a decrease in overall infection rates.

However, weekly figures from the report also indicated that the volume of redundancies was slowing when compared to the peak in September of last year.

This, it stated, is a key sign of the jobs market beginning to stabilise.

‘We must remember how far we’ve come’

James Reed, Chairman of REED, noted that there was a glimmer of hope in this news. “We must all remember how far we’ve come as a nation and know that the UK labour market is recovering against all the odds.

“Last week, the total number of jobs posted on reed.co.uk was four per cent higher than the same period in 2020 – which is particularly impressive considering the pandemic hadn’t started by then,” he said.

Elsewhere, Reed expressed optimism about the future. “With the vaccination programme gathering pace, the economy will begin to reopen and a return to normality could be sooner than expected.

“Jobseekers are urged to get ready for an easing in lockdown restrictions, and those currently unemployed or furloughed can do so by upskilling or reskilling for the emerging post-pandemic and post-Brexit economy,” he added.

Yet, REED’s chairman was not the only professional to comment on the ONS’ most recent data.

The CIPD weighs in

Jon Boys, Labour Market Economist for the CIPD, explained that unemployment has “continued its ominous ascent to five per cent” but is currently being “kept in check” by the coronavirus job retention scheme.

He explained: “Official forecasts expect it to peak just below eight per cent but the risks of higher levels of job losses are heightened without a further extension of the furlough scheme to at least the end of June.  

“It’s worth remembering that redundancies are not an easy or cheap option for businesses, costing around £11,000 per individual.

“Many of these jobs stand to be viable again in just a few months' time, which is why the CIPD is calling for the furlough scheme to be extended until at least the end of June.

“This would help to protect viable jobs from a period of temporary disruption while the vaccine is rolled out and buy time for the start of economic recovery,” he added.

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