The number of unemployed people went up 138,000 between June and August for the largest increase since the summer of 2009, Office for National Statisics data shows.
The jobless total is now at a three-year high of 1.52 million as the rate of unemployment jumped to 4.5 per cent, up from 4.1 per cent in the previous quarter.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the government’s “absolute priority” is trying to protect as many jobs as possible and help workers back into employment.
But the government is under attack over its lack of action with unions urging ministers to “act now to protect and create jobs,” including by offering support for the self-employed.
Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said that wage replacement should be increased to 80 per cent alongside support for businesses in areas facing local restrictions.
“The expansion of the Job Support Scheme is a step in the right direction, but it still falls short. We are on the precipice of an unemployment crisis,” she said.
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds also expressed fears over the end of the furlough scheme on October 31.
“Sadly, more people are going to lose their jobs until the government gets a grip,” the Labour MP said.
“That means fixing test, trace and isolate, putting in place a proper job-recovery scheme and making clear, consistent and fair funding available to local areas as soon as restrictions are applied.
“The Chancellor’s chaotic habit of trying to fix problems of his own making at the last possible minute risks unemployment spiralling to levels we haven’t seen in decades.”
The Prospect union backed calls to support the self-employed, with general secretary Mike Clancy noting that the government has been “repeatedly warned” it is not doing enough.
Employment lawyers also warned of the bleak reality facing many businesses.
Philip Richardson, head of employment law at Stephensons Solicitors, said it remains to be seen whether the flow of unemployment can be stemmed.
Redundancies rose by a record 114,000 quarter-on-quarter — to 227,000 — as the coronavirus crisis claimed jobs across the economy.
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