The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) paint a grim picture for recovery of the
job market in September, showing that the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic is far
The UK unemployment rate continues to grow, having hit 4.8% in the three months leading up to
September, up from 4.5% in the previous period. The number of unemployed people rose by
243,000, representing the most significant increase since May 2009.
Simultaneously, the number of job redundancies have also hit a record high, with many claiming that
the government’s delayed extension of the furlough support scheme came “too late in the day” to
save thousands of workers from being prematurely terminated.
More in-depth analysis of the statistics highlights people in lower age groups have been more widely
affected. The unemployment rate of people between 16-24 years old stands at around 14.6%, well
above the UK average of 4.8%. In response, the government recently introduced its £2 billion
Kickstart scheme, aimed towards upskilling and training young people to cope with the demands of
the job market.
Speaking about the latest unemployment figures, the ONS’ Deputy National Statistician for Economic
Statistics, Jonathan Athow said, "We're seeing a continuation of a weakening of the labour market, fewer people on the payrolls and fewer people employed overall. That is now passing through to
increasing unemployment altogether.”
While the number of people on payrolls has reduced, the figures from the ONS also include around
2.5 million people who are currently on furlough. It is uncertain whether they will be retained
following the discontinuation of the extended furlough scheme in March.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reiterated the government’s support towards protecting livelihoods,
stating, “I know that this is a tough time for those who have sadly already lost their jobs, and I want
to reassure anyone that is worried about the coming winter months that we will continue to support
those affected and protect the lives and livelihoods of people across this country.”
In November, the government announced its decision to extend the furlough scheme until March,
following its announcement of a second nationwide lockdown. Though the furlough scheme could
have protected thousands of jobs in the coming months, a large number of employers had already
planned for mass redundancies, anticipating the end of the scheme in October. Many criticised the
government’s abrupt move, considering its earlier stance that there would be “no chance” of an
While analysts believe that the extension to the furlough scheme will be vital to protecting millions
of livelihoods in the short term, they remain concerned about business’ ability to endure through
the challenging winter months. Renewed government restrictions are likely to put additional
pressure on cash flow, with the aid provided by the furlough and other support schemes not enough
to sustain employers. In this environment, the UK will likely continue to see further substantial
increases in unemployment in the coming months.