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In the final three months of last year, the United Kingdom’s unemployment rate soared to 5.1 percent, its highest level in nearly five years, official data shows, as extreme COVID-19 lockdown constraints strained the economy.

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of the United Kingdom on Tuesday, the unemployment rate increased by 0.4 percentage points between early October and late December 2020.

The rise came against the backdrop of regional and national constraints put in place to curb the spread of the pandemic of coronavirus, which hit the UK hard, killing more than 120,000 people and causing its largest fiscal recession in over 300 years.

Overall, unemployment had risen by 1.3 percent by the end of last year compared to December 2019, the ONS figures revealed, amid a landmark government-backed job-retention program introduced in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Between February 2020 and January 2021, the number of payroll workers plummeted by 726,000, it said.

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