Unemployment steady at 5% and 200,000 back on payrolls

Glimmers of hope? Unemployment holds steady at 5% and 200,000 people back on payrolls as businesses adjust to lockdown

  • Latest ONS figures show payroll numbers continuing to recover after nosedive
  • Payroll numbers now up 200,000 over past three months but still down overall 
  • Unemployment steady at 5 per cent, down 0.1% on three months to December 

There were glimmers of hope for the UK labour market today with payroll numbers rising and unemployment holding steady at 5 per cent.

The latest figures show 68,000 more people were on payrolls in February, with the rise now 200,000 over the past three months – although the numbers are still down nearly 700,000 since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate was 5 per cent in the three months to January, according to the Office for National Statistics – barely changed from the previous quarter. 

However, worryingly the increase in job vacancies has slowed and is still well below pre-pandemic levels. 

The latest figures show 68,000 more people were on payrolls in February, with the rise now 200,000 over the past three months – although the level is still down nearly 700,000 since the start of the pandemic

The unemployment rate was 5 per cent in the three months to January, according to the Office for National Statistics

The update was published on the year anniversary of the UK being plunged into the first coronavirus lockdown.

ONS head of economic statistics Sam Beckett said: ‘After yet another monthly increase, there were almost 200,000 more employees on payroll in February than three months earlier, although that is still nearly 700,000 down from the start of the pandemic. 

‘Of the decrease since then, almost two-thirds has been among the under-25s, over half has been in hospitality, and almost a third has been in London. 

The Bank of England has suggested unemployment will peak at a lower level than the 7.8 per cent it previously feared, after Rishi Sunak moved to extend the huge furlough scheme until September. 

Minister for Employment Mims Davies said: ‘Today’s figures highlight the challenges facing us on our road to recovery, but there is reason for optimism with more workers on payrolls and over half a million vacancies out there.’ 

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