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UK unemployment falls

UK unemployment falls
January 29, 2015 --- Web Desk

LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - Britain's unemployment rate unexpectedly fell for a second month in a row to 4.9% in the December-to-February period, most of which the country spent under a tight COVID-19 lockdown, official figures showed on Tuesday.

But helped by the fast rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, it is in the process of lifting its third lockdown while other countries in Europe have recently tightened their restrictions.

The ONS said there was a marked rise in job vacancies in March, especially in sectors such as hospitality which reopened for outdoor business last week.

FURLOUGH TAPER

Finance minister Rishi Sunak in March extended his furlough scheme - which pays the wages of around one in five employees - until the end of September although employers will have to start contributing towards some of its costs from July.

 

Without the scheme, the jobless rate would be far higher - a year ago, Britain's budget forecasters said it could hit 10%.

The Bank of England will be watching how many jobs are lost when it expires as it considers how long it needs to keep its huge economic stimulus programme in place.

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said long-term unemployment, particularly among young people, might mean progress towards pre-pandemic levels in the labour market lags behind the wider economic recovery.

"Further action will be needed to support the labour market when the furlough scheme ends, including supporting businesses to recruit and retain staff through a temporary cut in employer national insurance contributions," he said.

Britain's headline measure of pay growth again rose strongly in the three months to February, up 4.5% in annual terms.

But the ONS said the reading was skewed higher by a drop in the number of lower-paid and part-time jobs. After accounting for this, pay growth was much weaker at 2.5%, it estimated.

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