About 1.72 million workers are currently jobless in the UK as the nation's unemployment rate soared to 5% in the three months to November, its highest level in over four years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed.
ONS said the figure had skyrocketed to its highest point since early 2016 after another 202,000 people lost their jobs during the said period, while the redundancy rate reached a record high of 14.2 per thousand.
ONS deputy chief executive Sam Beckett told the BBC that "payroll numbers show the number of workers on payroll have fallen by over 828,000 since the [COVID-19] pandemic began" last year.
She argued that the fact the government "has currently got over 4.5 million people on the furlough scheme […] does complicate the picture when you're trying to interpret what's going on in the labour market" in Britain.
Beckett was echoed by Minister for Employment Mims Davies who described the ONS figures as something that show "many people are still facing difficult times".
At the same time, she singled out government support that is "helping keep millions of workers on payrolls across the country".
"Our Plan for Jobs is helping to protect and support livelihoods, as well as create new opportunities for those who need them. The number of vacancies has risen for six consecutive months, our Kickstart Scheme for young people has already created more than 120,000 job placements and we have provided over £280 billion ($382 billion) to protect incomes and livelihoods as we battle the pandemic", Davies said.
The remarks came after Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was accused of acting too late when he expanded programmes to protect jobs and businesses hit by the coronavirus-related lockdowns.
She added that the association "desperately" needs "continued support from the government and a clear and viable roadmap for businesses out of restrictions".
The UK is currently in the grip of a third national coronavirus lockdown as reports are emerging to claim that London hopes to start easing restrictions by early spring. As of Monday, the number of confirmed cases in the country had jumped to 3,680,101, with 98,723 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.