Younger people continue to bear the brunt of the jobs crisis amid widespread cuts in sectors such as hospitality, official figures show.
In the year to March, 811,000 payroll jobs were lost in the UK, with under-35s accounting for 80% of these cuts.
The data also showed the unemployment rate dipped to 4.9% in the three months to February – down from 5% previously.
This was despite most of the UK being under strict lockdown rules for at least some of the period.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the jobs market “remains subdued”, with five million people employed but still on furlough.
Head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, Suren Thiru, said: “Unemployment remains on course to peak towards the end of 2021, once the furlough scheme expires and those who stopped job hunting during the pandemic look to return to the workforce as restrictions ease.
“Although the furlough scheme will limit the peak in job losses, the longer-term structural unemployment caused by Covid-19, particularly among young people, may mean that the road back to pre-pandemic levels lags behind the wider economic recovery.”
Overall, some 1.67 million people were unemployed between December and February. That is down 50,000 on the previous quarter but still 311,000 higher than a year ago.
But the ONS said younger people were suffering disproportionately, as sectors such as retail and hospitality were hit hard by the crisis.