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The number of self-employed people in the UK has seen a record decrease in the last few months, data from the Office for National Statistics shows.

Estimates for March to May 2020 showed a total of 4.85 million people were self-employed – a decrease of 178,000 compared to the previous quarter.

In comparison, the number of employees increased by 97,000 over the same period of time, reaching a total of 27.95 million.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, called this an “alarming and avoidable slump”.

He said:

“In past recessions, the flexible expertise of freelancers has been crucial for recovery. In kickstarting the economy, the Government must therefore adopt measures that support and boost the freelancing community.

“It must also prepare to roll out a fuller self-employed support scheme in the event of a second lockdown – for the sake of freelancers themselves and the wider economy.”

The statistics showed a stable rate of unemployment, however, which has remained at 3.9% since the start of 2020.

The ONS says this is because a “larger than usual” proportion of people leaving employment are not actively looking for a new job, which means they are classed as economically inactive rather than unemployed.

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