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Unemployment rate: How many people are out of work?

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Unemployment rate: How many people are out of work?

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Companies are cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs as Covid-19 continues to hit the economy.
The unemployment rate is rising even as people return to their workplace following the easing
of restrictions. How high could the unemployment rate go?

How many people are unemployed?
The most widely used measure is the unemployment rate. It counts how many people want a job
and are able to work, but can't find one. The most recent unemployment rate - for May to July -
is 4.1%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That's a slight increase from the previous figure of 3.9%, but still close to the lowest it has ever
been. However, this number is always based on surveys taken in previous months and is not
right up to date.

Another more current measure of unemployment suggests that the real picture might be worse.
The claimant count measures how many people are claiming benefits for being out of work,
or on very low incomes.

Between March, when the lockdown began, and August, the number of people claiming these
benefits rose 120% to 2.7 million.

Who is becoming unemployed?
The biggest rise in unemployment has been among young people - up 76,000 for 16- to 24-year-
olds compared to last year. The ONS says that this is because young people are more likely to be
employed in areas such as hotels, restaurants and tourism. Jobs like these have been particularly
hard-hit by lockdown and quarantine restrictions reducing the number of tourists.

Why is unemployment beginning to rise?
The government has been using measures to protect jobs. Under the furlough scheme, it has been
paying most of the wages for workers when their employers cannot. That has prevented many
of those people becoming unemployed.

But the furlough scheme is being wound down. Employers are being asked to pay a bigger proportion
of the costs of their employees and the scheme will close at the end of October. This is one reason
why unemployment has begun to rise, as many businesses will decide they cannot afford to start
paying those workers again and need to let them go.


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