UNEMPLOYMENT has fallen to its lowest for more than a year, although there has been an increase in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, figures showed today.

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The jobless total across the UK fell by 49,000 in the quarter to September to 2.51million, the lowest figure since last summer.

And the number of people in work increased by 100,000 during the quarter to just under 30 million, a rise of over half a million over the past year.

The narrower measure of those out of work and eligible for the Jobseeker’s Allowance benefit, the so-called claimant count, jumped by 10,100 on a seasonally-adjusted basis last month to 1.58 million, the highest since July, and the biggest monthly rise since last September.

The picture at local level, where the claimant count data is not adjusted for normal seasonal variations, was more mixed but the overall trend across Suffolk was downwards, in line with the national unadjusted count which dipped from 1.552m in September to 1,547m last month.

The biggest fall in Suffolk was in Ipswich, where the count fell by 121 to 4,009 and the local unemployment rate by 0.1 of a percentage point to 4.8%.

Rates also fell by 0.1% in Mid Suffolk, where the count fell by 56 to 1,098 (representing a rate of 1.9%) and St Edmundsbury, down 79 to 1,566 (2.4%), while smaller falls left the rate unchanged in Babergh, down 21 to 1,267 (2.5%), and Forest Heath, down 17 to 870 (2.1%).

However, small increases were recorded in Suffolk Coastal, up five to 1,310, and Waveney, up 18 to 2,950, although the unemployment rate remained unchanged in each case, at 1.8% and 4.2% respectively.

Other figures from the Office for National Statistics today showed that long-term unemployment, those out of work for over a year, increased by 12,000 in the quarter to September to 894,000, while 443,000 people have been jobless for over two years, up by 21,000.

Part-time employment increased by 49,000 to 8.1 million, close to a record high, while there were 51,000 more people in full-time jobs, at 21.4 million.

Unemployment among women fell by 10,000 to 1.09 million, and by 39,000 among men to 1.43 million. Unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 49,000, which accounts for the total fall in today’s jobless figures.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “It’s good news to see yet another increase in the number of people in work and to see unemployment fall again. The fall in youth unemployment is particularly welcome, although we’re not complacent about the scale of the challenge still facing us.

“We’re working hard to help the long-term unemployed back into a job.

“That’s why we’ve committed to supporting the hardest-to-help people over a two-year period through the Work Programme so that we can help them overcome their barriers to work and get them into sustainable jobs.”

However, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “With unemployment stuck at two and a half million, a lot of families face a miserable Christmas without any hope of getting a job. It is definitely hurting but it’s not working.

“We have been seeing further job losses in both the public and private sectors over the past two months and it is hard to see where the new jobs are going to come from with confidence at rock bottom.

“The Chancellor needs to use next month’s autumn statement to kick-start the economy.”

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