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UK Jobless Rate Hits 5.1% as Rishi Sunak Readies More Job Support

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Britain’s jobless rate rose to 5.1% in the last three months of 2020, its highest in nearly five years but still lower than it would have been without a huge coronavirus jobs support scheme that finance minister Rishi Sunak looks set to extend next week.

Separate data from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of employees on company payrolls in January rose by 83,000 from December, the second monthly increase and its biggest since January 2015.

The jobless rate – the highest since the first three months of 2016 – was in line with the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

Unemployment has been suppressed by the government’s Job Retention Scheme which is supporting about one in five employees.

The programme is Britain’s most expensive COVID economic support measure and will cost an estimated 70 billion pounds ($98 billion) by its scheduled expiry date of April 30.

But figures based on tax data show the number of employees on business payrolls has still fallen by 726,000 since February 2020 – equivalent to just over 2% of the workforce – with the majority of job losses suffered by workers aged under 25.

The Bank of England has said it thinks the unemployment rate will jump to almost 8% in mid-2021 after the furlough scheme ends.

Sunak is expected to announce an extension of his jobs support, at least for sectors hardest hit by the government’s lockdowns, in a March 3 budget statement.

“At the Budget next week I will set out the next stage of our Plan for Jobs, and the support we’ll provide through the remainder of the pandemic and our recovery,” Sunak said after Tuesday’s data.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his plan for easing England’s lockdown on Monday that would keep some businesses shut until the summer but allow a gradual, earlier reopening for others.

“The outlook for the UK economy is getting clearer and with continued support from the Treasury, it is likely the Bank of England’s peak unemployment forecast of 7.75% will prove too pessimistic,” Jon Hudson, a fund manager at Premier Miton, said.

Samuel Tombs, at consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics, said he thought the jobless rate would hit 6% in the summer.

The ONS said the number of job vacancies in the three months to January was 26% lower than a year ago, a less severe fall than last summer when vacancies were down by nearly 60%, although the pace of improvement slowed in the past few months.

Pay growth was the strongest since 2008. Total pay including bonuses rose by 4.7% in the October-December period compared with the same three months of 2019.

The pick-up in pay growth in part reflects how the brunt of job losses has fallen on people working in lower-paid jobs in areas such as hospitality, and the ONS said pay growth was likely to be below 3% if this effect is stripped out.

Britain went into a new COVID lockdown on Jan. 5 due to a rapidly rising death toll that has passed 120,000, the highest in Europe.



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Airline CEOs, Biden Officials Consider Green-Fuel Breaks

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Chief executives of the nation’s largest passenger and cargo airlines met with key Biden administration officials Friday to talk about reducing emissions from airplanes and push incentives for lower-carbon aviation fuels.

The White House said the meeting with climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also touched on economic policy and curbing the spread of COVID-19 travel has been a vector for the virus. But industry officials said emissions dominated the discussion.

United Airlines said CEO Scott Kirby asked administration officials to support incentives for sustainable aviation fuel and technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere. In December, United said it invested an undisclosed amount in a carbon-capture company partly owned by Occidental Petroleum.

A United Nations aviation group has concluded that biofuels will remain a tiny source of aviation fuel for several years. Some environmentalists would prefer the Biden administration to impose tougher emissions standards on aircraft rather than create breaks for biofuels.

Biofuels are false solutions that dont decarbonize air travel, said Clare Lakewood, a climate-law official with the Center for Biological Diversity. Real action on aircraft emissions requires phasing out dirty, aging aircraft, maximizing operational efficiencies and funding the rapid development of electrification.

Airplanes account for a small portion of emissions that cause climate change about 2% to 3% but their share has been growing rapidly and is expected to roughly triple by mid-century with the global growth in travel.

The airline trade group says U.S. carriers have more than doubled the fuel efficiency of their fleets since 1978 and plan further reductions in carbon emissions. But the independent International Council on Clean Transportation says passenger traffic is growing nearly four times faster than fuel efficiency, leading to a 33% increase in emissions between 2013 and 2019.

The U.S. accounts for about 23% of aircraft carbon-dioxide emissions, followed by Europe at 19% and China at 13%, the transportation group’s researchers estimated.

The White House said McCarthy, Buttigieg and economic adviser Brian Deese were grateful and optimistic to hear the airline CEOs talk about current and future efforts to combat climate change.

Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group Airlines for America, said the exchange was positive.

Airlines are ready, willing and able partners, and we want to be part of the solution” to climate change, Calio said in a statement. We stand ready to work in partnership with the Biden administration.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor



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