Britains jobless rate rose to 5.1 in the last three months of 2020, its highest in nearly five years but still lower than it would have been without a huge coronavirus jobs support scheme that finance minister Rishi Sunak looks set to extend next week.
Separate data from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of employees on company payrolls in January rose by 83,000 from December, the second monthly increase and its biggest since January 2015.
The jobless rate the highest since the first three months of 2016 was in line with the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.
Unemployment has been suppressed by the governments Job Retention Scheme which is supporting about one in five employees.
The programme is Britains most expensive COVID economic support measure and will cost an estimated 70 billion pounds 98 billion by its scheduled expiry date of April 30.
But figures based on tax data show the number of employees on business payrolls has still fallen by 726,000 since February 2020 equivalent to just over 2 of the workforce with the majority of job losses suffered by workers aged under 25.
The Bank of England has said it thinks the unemployment rate will jump to almost 8 in mid2021 after the furlough scheme ends.
Sunak is expected to announce an extension of his jobs support, at least for sectors hardest hit by the governments lockdowns, in a March 3 budget statement.
At the Budget next week I will set out the next stage of our Plan…