UK Unemployment Surges to 4.5% on Record Redundancies

Redundancies reached their highest level since 2009 this summer as companies struggle to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK unemployment rate rose to 4.5% in the three months to August, up from 4.1% in the previous quarter, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday.

An estimated 1.52 million people were unemployed between June and August, while redundancies hit 227,000 – their highest level since the global financial crisis over ten years ago, and a record jump of 114,000 from the previous quarter.

The unemployment rate exceeded the expectations of analysts, including Pantheon Macroeconomics’ chief UK economist Samuel Tombs, who had predicted that the unemployment rate would reach 4.3% during the June-August period.

It is widely expected that unemployment will rise further in November as the government’s furlough scheme is phased out and replaced by a support package that will provide comparatively less compensation to afflicted workers.

Analysts from Citibank also suggested that the unemployment rate could potentially reach 8.5% in the first half of 2021, an extreme that has not been seen in the UK since the early 1990s.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak commented on the latest ONS figures: “I’ve been honest with people from the start that we would unfortunately not be able to save every job. But these aren’t just statistics, they are people’s lives.

“That’s why trying to protect as many jobs as possible and to helping those who lose their job back into employment, is my absolute priority.”

For those who had lost their jobs, Sunak continued, there would be new opportunities through extra work search support, as well as apprenticeships, traineeships and the government’s £2 billion Kickstart scheme.

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