ONS data reveals that in the three months leading up to November in 2020, the unemployment rate reached 5 per cent in the UK. 

New figures provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that, between September to November 2020, the UK unemployment rate was estimated at 5 per cent.

This was up 1.2 percentage points from a year earlier and 0.6 points higher than the previous quarter. This roughly translates to an estimated 1.72 million people being unemployed. It was also 202,000 more people unemployed than the previous three months.

In line with this, the UK employment rate, in the three months to November 2020, was estimated at 75.2 per cent, 1.1 percentage points lower than a year earlier and 0.4 percentage points lower than June to August of the same year.

Men were more impacted by the falling employment rate in comparison to women. The estimated employment rate from September to November 2020 was 78.4 per cent for men which was 1.9 percentage points down on the same period the previous year and 0.7 percentage points down on the quarter.

However, for women, the employment rate was estimated to be 72 per cent which is only a 0.4 per cent drop from 2019 figures and 0.1 per cent drop from June-August.

The redundancy rate in the UK also reached its highest level on record – 14.2 per thousand. Young people between the ages of 25 and 34 had the highest rate of redundancy with this number averaging higher at 16.2 per thousand.

Overall, the statistics show that since February 2020, the number of payroll employees has fallen by 828,000.

Reacting to these figures, Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation said:

Today’s jobs stats are disappointing, if not surprising. With unemployment rising and redundancies hitting a record high, it’s clear that it will take a while for the labour market to recover from Covid.

The key now is turning this trend around. Rising vacancies and hours worked are a sign that this is possible. Firms have learned how to work through Covid and, as REC data shows, some sectors are hiring strongly.  Our Jobs Recovery Tracker measured 1.77 million job ads in December, a record for the year.

We need to take action to boost the recovery – supporting businesses to retain workers and create new jobs, and underpinning the transitions people will need to make. Reforming the apprenticeship levy to boost skills, reducing the cost of furlough, deferring 2020 VAT repayments and reducing the jobs tax – employers National Insurance – would all be sensible steps. The recruitment industry is ready to help.

Head of Employment at DWF, Joanne Frew, said:

A proportion of the figures reported relate to a period of time when employers were expecting the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to end on 31 October 2020, it is perhaps unsurprising that we have seen a negative impact on the employment figures.  In addition, the four-week lockdown in November 2020 resulted in further difficulties for employers.

News that the CJRS has been extended to the end of April 2021 should help to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on job losses in the next three months. Unfortunately, this extended support is not enough for some businesses, which are already in financial crisis, particularly those in hospitality and retail.  As the impact of the third national lockdown takes its toll we can expect further redundancies.

However, with the CJRS in place until the end of April 2021 and the mass vaccination programme in full swing, it is hoped that this will instill confidence in employers going forward.  If businesses are able to endure the next three months, utilising government support, the employment figures should stabilise.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, called for the CJRS to be extended:

The more people we keep in work, the faster we can recover. But with the job retention scheme set to end in April, millions of people’s jobs hang in the balance.

When the government planned to withdraw support last autumn, despite restrictions still being in place, unemployment surged. We can’t let that happen again. It’s time to end the uncertainty and anxiety. The Chancellor must urgently extend furlough support to the end of the year to keep jobs safe.

ONS statistics were taken from ‘Labour Market Overview, UK: January 2021’ which reported primarily on the UK Labour Market between September to December 2020.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.