LONDON (AP) — The number of workers on U.K. corporate payrolls dropped by 0.2% in March as young people were hardest hit by coronavirus restrictions that closed bars, restaurants and hotels, according to the latest government statistics.

Company payrolls fell by 56,000 last month, pushing the decline since March of last year to 813,000, the Office for National Statistics said Tuesday.

Workers under 25 accounted for more than half the decline, with the number of young people on company payrolls dropping by 436,000 over the past year. Payrolls in the accommodation and food service industries, which employ large numbers of young people, fell by 355,000 workers.

Despite the drop in payroll figures, the unemployment rate for the three months through February fell to 4.9%, a decline of 0.1% from the November-January period. The figures don’t include furloughed employees, who continue to receive a portion of their wages under a government program designed to preserve jobs during the pandemic.

About 4.7 million workers across the U.K. were fully or partially furloughed during March, according to ONS figures released last month.

The U.K. has begun to relax restrictions imposed in December to limit the spread of COVID-19. Nonessential shops, hairdressers and gyms across England were allowed to reopen last week, while bars and restaurants were permitted to serve patrons outdoors. Indoor service is scheduled to resume May 17.


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