THE number of people in work across the UK has reached another new record following a further fall in unemployment and another dip in claims for the Jobseeker’s Allowance, new figures showed today.

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Nearly 30 million adults were in a job in the quarter to last November, up by more than 500,000 on the previous year and representing an employment rate of 71% – the highest since records began in 1971.

Total unemployment fell by 37,000 during the quarter to just under 2.5million, the lowest since spring 2011.

It was the 10th consecutive fall and was coupled with another decline in the narrower count of those eligible to claim the Jobseeker’s Allowance, which fell by 12,100 on a seasonally adjusted basis in December to 1.56million, the lowest since June 2011.

The fall was slightly less pronounced on an unadjusted basis, with last month’s count down by around 1,800 compared with November at 1.523million.

The overall trend in Suffolk and north Essex was also down although the picture was mixed, and was further complicated by a change in the basis for the calculation of unemployment rates, taking into account new population data from the 2011 census, which prevents direct comparison with previous months.

In Suffolk, the biggest change was in Ipswich where the claimant count fell by 60 compared with November to 3,847, representing an unemployment rate (claimants as a percentage of the local workforce) of 4.4%.

The claimant counts also fell in Babergh, by 27 to 1,246 (a rate of 2.4%), St Edmundsbury, down nine to 1,560 (2.2%), Suffolk Coastal, down 51 to 1,278 (1.7%), and Waveney, down eight to 2,971 (4.4%).

However, there were increases in Forest Heath, up 34 to 892 (2.3%), and Mid Suffolk, up 28 to 1,103 (1.8%).

In north and mid Essex, counts fell in Chelmsford, by 29 to 2,644 (2.4%), Colchester, down 15 to 3,085 (2.7%), Uttlesford, down five to 742 (1.5%).

However, there were increases in Braintree, up 22 to 2,557 (2.7%), Maldon, up eight to 865 (2.3%), and Tendring, up 122 to 3,434 (4.4%).

Part-time employment fell by 23,000, but this was offset by a 113,000 increase in the numbers employed full-time in the three months to November.

Other figures revealed that the number of self-employed workers has increased by 7,000 to 4.2 million, while unpaid family workers fell by 1,000 to 111,000.

Long-term unemployment has also fallen, down by 10,000 for those out of work for more than two years, to 434,000, and by 5,000 for people unemployed for at least a year, to 892,000.

The number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 1,000 to 957,000, the first rise since last summer, although youth employment also showed an increase, of 12,000, as more students sought work.

Employment minister Mark Hoban welcomed the figures, saying employment had increased for 15 months. The UK employment rate was growing at almost double the rate of the US, and faster than any other G7 country, he said.

“These are very positive figures showing employment rising for 15 months and despite difficult economic circumstances, unemployment is lower than when this Government took office.

“It’s good to see long-term unemployment falling and the number of young people claiming jobseeker’s allowance dropping again, while the increase in vacancies shows there are jobs out there.

“But we are not complacent, and will continue making sure we give jobseekers the support and training they need to achieve their goal of returning to work.”

However, Liam Byrne, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “Today’s headline fall in unemployment is welcome news, but today’s figures show no roaring recovery, they show very shaky foundations.

“Half of the country saw yet another rise in unemployment, nearly half a million people have been on the dole for more than a year, and youth unemployment rose.

“Worse, there are now more people on the dole long term than at any time since October 1997, there are more signing on for over two years than at any time since the 90s, and there are now more people in temporary jobs than at any time since July 2001.”

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The new figures reinforce favourable trends that have been apparent over the past year, and raise continued questions over the accuracy of the much more pessimistic GDP figures.

“Although it is clear that the economy has been stagnant for too long, talk of a triple-dip recession is unnecessarily downbeat and damages business confidence across the nation.

“The positive labour market figures provide a better reflection of the true state of the economy.”

John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It is good news that the number of unemployed continues to fall and it is encouraging that more people - particularly women - are setting up their own business.

“What we need to see is support for these people, through mentoring and financial assistance where needed, so their businesses can succeed and they can look to create jobs.

“Although it is good news that long-term unemployment is falling, a growing number of these people have gone on to Government-supported training and jobs programmes and are no longer classed as unemployed in the figures. It is vital these people go on to find a job.”

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