The number of self-employed individuals increased month-on-month for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The number of freelancers rose slightly from 4,313,000 in January to 4,331,000 in February, the data showed. However, the figure was still 617,000 lower than the same time last year. The month-on-month increase was driven by a rise in the number of female freelancers from 1,547,000 to 1,576,000.
Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), said: 'This first month-on-month increase in freelancer numbers in over a year is cause for cautious optimism.
'Although the year-on-year drop is testament to the drastic financial damage of the pandemic, the monthly increase – taken with our data on rising business performance – gives us hope that the freelance sector is on its way back.
'Freelancers are the leading edge of the economy and have always played a key part in economic recovery. To fully unleash this potential, however, government must do more to support the sector. Many excluded freelancers are now struggling under enormous amounts of debt, and government should consider ways to relieve this.'