Business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire say a further rise in unemployment shows that firms will need more help before the Covid-19 crisis is over.
The UK’s unemployment rate rose to 5.1 per cent – a five year high – in the three months to December, with 18 to 24-year-olds the hardest hit.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The rise in unemployment is another indicator of just how difficult this past 12 months have been for businesses and for individuals.
“The business support package from Government, particularly furlough, has prevented the unemployment rate being even higher and that’s why it is crucial that the tap isn’t turned off too soon.
“In setting out his roadmap, the Prime Minister said there would be more support for businesses but we don’t know exactly what that is going to look like yet. Businesses need clarity as soon as possible so they know that they are going to be able to survive the next few months and to avoid further job cuts.
“Once again, it is our younger generation that has been hit hardest by the latest rise in unemployment and over the coming weeks and months, we have to develop a long-term plan to help our young people come through this crisis with opportunities to fulfil their potential.”
British Chambers of Commerce Head of Economics Suren Thiru said: “While the furlough scheme is limiting job losses, the rise in unemployment and decline in employment levels are further evidence that coronavirus continues to weaken the UK labour market.
“With firms facing a renewed cash crisis amid the current lockdown and the prospect of several more months of diminished demand and revenue before many can fully reopen, substantial job losses maybe inevitable if the support schemes wind down as planned.
“Although the government’s roadmap provides a way forward, the lack of clarity over the future path of fiscal support has left a damaging cliff edge for jobs and livelihoods.
“It is vital that the government support schemes, including furlough and business rates relief, are extended through the summer and wherever possible throughout 2021 to help protect jobs and power the recovery.”