U.K. Unemployment Rate Rises to Highest In Almost Five Years

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U.K. unemployment climbed to its highest rate in almost five years in the fourth quarter as the economic toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to mount.

The number of people looking for work rose 121,000 from the third quarter, taking the jobless rate to 5.1%, the most since early 2016, the Office for National Statistics said Tuesday. The number of people in work fell by 114,000.

The figures increase pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deliver on his pledge to do “whatever it takes” to support workers and business through the pandemic.

Setting out a gradual exit from England’s third virus lockdown, Johnson on Monday gave his clearest signal yet that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will use his budget on March 3 to extend government support programs due to expire in the coming weeks.

Unemployment has been held down by tens of billions of pounds of wage subsidies, which were still supporting almost 4 million jobs at the end of last year following the deepest economic slump in three centuries. Adding time to the furlough program beyond April 30 could mean that Britain avoids many of the job losses currently predicted by economists.

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