UK unemployment increases by 50,000

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UK unemployment rose by 50,000 to 1.35 million in the three months to March, as the effects of the coronavirus lockdown started to hit the economy.

The unemployment rate was estimated at 3.9%, slightly up on the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.

Before the lockdown began, employment had hit a record high.

The figures only cover the first week of the lockdown and the total is likely to worsen sharply in the coming months.

Jagjit Chadha, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told the BBC: “We can reasonably expect unemployment to rise very quickly to something over 10% – something we haven’t seen since the early 1990s.”

People who are at home on furlough are not counted in the jobless total.

However, the total number of weekly hours worked showed its largest annual decrease in 10 years.

Estimates based on returns for individual weeks suggest that this fall was mostly caused by the decrease in hours in the last week of March, with a much smaller decrease in the previous week, the ONS said.

In the final week of March, the total number of hours worked was abut 25% fewer than in other weeks within the quarter.

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