UK unemployment rate falls below 5% in three months to February

The unemployment rate across the UK fell to 4.9% in the three months to February, despite the country’s lockdown. This is the first quarterly drop in the unemployment rate since 2019, even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK and other parts of the world.

However, compared to pre-pandemic levels, there is still a shortage of around 800,000 employees on corporate payrolls, underscoring that labor market woes are far from over. According to data published by the ONS, the number of unemployed stood at 1.67 million between December 2020 and February 2021.

The total number of unemployed was 50,000 less than the figures for the previous three months, but it remained about 311,000 higher than the corresponding duration of the previous year. Between February and March, the number of workers on payrolls fell by 56,000, indicating that the total number of workers on payrolls was 813,000 lower since March 2020 – the start of the pandemic and lockdowns.

ONS Director of Economic Statistics Darren Morgan notes: “The latest figures suggest that the job market has been broadly stable in recent months after the major shock of last spring. There are, however, more than 800,000 fewer employees than before the outbreak of the pandemic, and with around five million people employed but still on leave, the labor market remains sluggish. However, with the prospect of businesses reopening, there was a marked increase in vacancies in March, especially in sectors such as hospitality.

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