The number of workers on company payrolls in the UK is gradually increasing but is still significantly down on last year, according to the latest data.
In February 2021, 68,000 more people were in payrolled employment compared with January 2021 – the third consecutive monthly increase, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
However, compared with February 2020, before the first Covid-19 lockdown, the number of payroll employees has fallen by 693,000.
Young people have been hit particularly hard, with under-25s accounting for over 60% of the fall in payroll employees over the past year.
The figures also show that the hospitality and retail industries have lost a total of 491,000 payroll jobs since the pandemic began.
Across the UK, an estimated 1.7 million people are out of work – around a five-year high.
The unemployment rate now stands at 5.0%.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that unemployment will peak at 6.5% later this year after the UK government’s furlough scheme ends.