Commenting on the figures, Joanne Frew, Head of Employment law at DWF said, "The ONS figures show 1.74 million people were unemployed between October and December 2020, up 454,000 on the same period the previous year and up 121,000 on the quarter. The annual increase was the largest since September to November 2009.
"The four week lockdown in November 2020 will undoubtedly have had an impact on the figures, however, increased spending and activity in the run up to Christmas may have helped limit job losses during this period.
"The impact of lockdown 3.0 will inevitably filter through to the next quarter's ONS statistics. However, with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended to the end of April 2021 and early indications that it may be extended further for some sectors, the unemployment rate may subsequently stabilise.
"With Boris Johnson's announcement last night on the easing of lockdown, setting out a clear four step strategy aiming for restrictions to be lifted by 21 June 2021, we can expect the employment rates will improve in the medium term. The key test will be whether businesses can endure the next four months. Rishi Sunak's budget on 3 March 2021 and the hope of further government support is eagerly awaited."