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UK unemployment rate hits 4-year high in final quarter of 2020 but data shows 'tentative' signs of stabilizing

Published by Business Insider on Tue, 23 Feb 2021

<p><img src="https://static5.businessinsider.com/image/6034bdc6d9208800185916b8-2400/2021-02-01T135733Z_1974033610_RC2PJL9MCZX8_RTRMADP_3_BRITAIN-ECONOMY-GDP.JPG" border="0" alt="2021 02 01T135733Z_1974033610_RC2PJL9MCZX8_RTRMADP_3_BRITAIN ECONOMY GDP.JPG" data-mce-source="Toby Melville/Reuters" data-mce-caption="The UK economy suffered the worst slump in the G7 in 2020"></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><ul class="summary-list"><li>The UK unemployment rate rose to 5.1% in the fourth quarter of 2020, the highest since 2016.</li><li>Yet company payrolls rose in January, when the UK went into national lockdown, suggesting the jobs markets may be stabilizing.</li><li>The UK suffered the worst slump out of the G7 in 2020 and has seen more than 120,000 deaths.</li><li id="recirc"><a href="https://newsletter.businessinsider.com/join/4np/10-things-opening-bell&amp;hash=8122c716833601fc1471f79af063b104'utm_source=markets&amp;utm_medium=ingest'utm_source=markets&amp;utm_medium=ingest'utm_source=markets&amp;utm_medium=ingest'utm_source=markets&amp;utm_medium=ingest" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell</a>.</li></ul><p>The UK unemployment rate hit 5.1% in the final quarter of 2020, its highest since 2016, as tough coronavirus restrictions caused companies to lay off workers, according to official data on Tuesday.</p><p>Yet the UK's Office for National Statistics said there were some "tentative" signs of stabilizing, with <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/bulletins/earningsandemploymentfrompayasyouearnrealtimeinformationuk/latest">separate data</a> showing the number of employees on company payrolls rose by 83,000 in January from December.</p><p>The coronavirus pandemic has been particularly painful for the UK, which has suffered more than 120,000 deaths and the <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/uk-q4-gdp-economy-worst-in-g7-coronavirus-vaccines-2021-2">worst economic slump in the G7</a>.</p><p>However, the UK has been one of the fastest at rolling out coronavirus vaccines. This allowed Prime Minister Boris Johnson to <a href="https://www.insider.co.uk/news/johnson-reveals-four-stages-easing-23547924">lay out a "roadmap" on Monday</a> that could see the whole of the economy reopened by the summer.</p><p>The 5.1% unemployment rate in the final quarter of 2020 was up from 4.7% in the previous quarter and 3.8% a year earlier, the <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/employmentintheuk/latest">ONS said</a>. It was the highest figure since early 2016.</p><p>It meant an estimated 1.74 million people were out of work in the period. That was 454,000 higher than a year earlier.</p><p>Yet ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said that the separate payroll figures "show tentative early signs of the labour market stabilizing, with a small increase in the numbers of employees paid through payroll over the last couple of months."</p><p>Though he added that there are "still over 700,000 fewer people employed before the start of the coronavirus pandemic."</p><p>The UK government's job support scheme - known as furlough - has kept a lid on unemployment by paying the wages of workers who may otherwise have been laid off. It supported more than 9 million workers at its peak in 2020.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/bank-of-england-cuts-2021-growth-forecast-for-uk-economy-2021-2">Bank of England predicted</a> earlier in February that unemployment would rise to close to 8% by the middle of 2021 after the scheme closes. However, chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly planning to extend the program in his March 3 Budget, which lays out the Treasury's economic policies.</p><p><a href="https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/uk-unemployment-rate-highest-level-since-2016-payrolls-rise-2021-2-1030111423#comments">Join the conversation about this story &#187;</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/pikes-peak-hill-climb-colorado-most-dangerous-racetrack-2020-2">Why Pikes Peak is the most dangerous racetrack in America</a></p>
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