UK unemployment hits 5 per cent on virus fallout

LONDON: Britain’s unemployment rate hit 5.0 per cent at the end of last year as coronavirus lockdowns destroyed jobs, official data showed on Tuesday.
The rate for the three months to the end of November compares with 4.9 per cent in the quarter to October, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.
At 5.0 per cent, the figure is 1.2 percentage points higher than a year earlier, the ONS added.
“This crisis has gone on far longer than any of us hoped — and every job lost as a result is a tragedy’’, finance minister Rishi Sunak said.
Analysts expect the unemployment rate to surge further when the UK government’s furlough scheme paying the bulk of wages for millions of private-sector workers stops at the end of April.
Between February last year, ahead of Britain’s first lockdown, and December, the number of payroll employees dived by 828,000.
The ONS data comes one day after administrators for collapsed UK department store chain Debenhams said it planned to shut all its outlets, costing around 12,000 jobs.
While Debenhams had struggled with fierce online competition long before the coronavirus pandemic, Britain’s bricks-and-mortar retailers are in turmoil after a series of lockdowns. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that the current lockdown may not be lifted until around Easter. — AFP