Benefit claims edge higher in Suffolk and north Essex despite record UK employment

Total unemployment fell by 31,000 in the three months to January to 1.58m, the lowest for a decade.

Total unemployment fell by 31,000 in the three months to January to 1.58m, the lowest for a decade. - Credit: PA

The UK’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest for nearly 42 years, with the number of people in work hitting a new record, according to official figures.

Total unemployment fell by 31,000 in the three months to January to 1.58m, the lowest for a decade, giving a jobless rate of 4.7%, the lowest since the summer of 1975.

Nearly 32m people were in work during the quarter, an increase of 92,000 on the previous three months and 315,00 higher compared with a year earlier.

The narrower count of those eligible to claim unemploymement-ralated benefits, including the Jobseeker’s Allowance and those on Universal Credit required to seek work, fell on a seasonally-adjsted basis by 11,300 last month to 734,700, the lowest since May 1975.

On an unadjusted basis, however, the claimant count grew nationally by nearly 30,000 to 803,580, with most parts of Suffolk and north Essex following the trend.

The biggest increase in Suffolk came in the Waveney district where the count rose by 90 compared with January to 2,155 and the local jobess rate by 0.2 of a percentage point to 3.3%.

Rates increased by 0.1 in Ipswich, where the count grew by 75 to 1,805 (a rate of 2.1%), Forest Heath, up 60 to 335 (0.8%), St Edmundsbury, up 55 to 760 (1.1%) and Babergh, up 15 to 445 (0.9%).

Most Read

Smaller increases, relative to the size of the workforce, left rates unchanged in Suffolk Coastal, up 35 to 530 (0.7%), and Mid Suffolk, up 15 to 465 (0.8%).

In north and mid Essex, the biggest increases – driving the rate 0.1 higher in each case – came in Braintree, up 55 to 1,085 (1.2%), and Chelmsford, up 40 to 1,245 (also 1.2%).

Smaller increases saw rates remained unchanged in Colchester, up 20 to 1,380 (1.2%), Tendring, up 20 to 2,255 (2.9%), and Maldon, up 15 to 370 (1.0%), while in Uttlesford the count dipped by 15 to 250, also leaving the rate unchanged (0.5%).

The UK’s employment rate is now 74.6%, the joint highest since records began in 1971. However, the number of workers employed on zero hours contracts in their main job increased by 101,000 in the final quarter of 2016 compared with a year earlier to 905,000.

In addition a record 4.8m people are now self-employed, up by 49,000 on the quarter and 148,000 over the past year, representing 15.1% of the total workforce.

Average earnings increased by 2.2% in the year to January, down by 0.4% on the previous month, compared with a 1.8% increase in the CPI measure of inflation over the same period.

David Freeman, senior statistician at the ONS, said: “With the unemployment rate last lower in summer 1975 and the employment rate still at a record high, the labour market remains robust.

“But smaller wage increases and higher inflation mean the growth in real earnings has slowed sharply in recent months.”