Concern grows as jobless total climbs

UNEMPLOYMENT across the UK has soared by 49,000 to 2.5 million, with a record number of young people out of work, new figures showed yesterday.

But there was better news in the East of England, with the regional total bucking the national trend to record a fall of 5,000 for the quarter to November, to 199,000.

The decline leaves the region with an unemployment rate (the number of people out of work as a percentage of the total workforce) of 6.6%, compared with 7.9% for the UK as a whole.

Nationally, one in five 16- to 24-year-olds are jobless after an increase of 32,000 in the quarter to 951,000, the highest figure since records began in 1992, while across the work force as a whole long-term unemployment (those out of work for more than a year) has risen by 15,000 to 836,000.

Employment levels have fallen, redundancies have increased and the number of people classed as economically inactive has reached 9.3million, yesterday’s grim figures revealed.

The only brighter news from the Office for National Statistics was a 4,100 fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance last month to 1.46million.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said yesterday: “These figures serve to underline the scale of the challenge we face. We inherited the largest budget deficit in peacetime history and high levels of worklessness, which we are determined to bring down by rebalancing the economy and supporting private sector jobs growth.

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“We are already seeing some improvement in the number of vacancies in the economy,” he added.

But Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “These grim figures confirm the risk George Osborne is taking in cutting too far and too fast.

“The Government still doesn’t seem to understand that a longer dole queue means a higher welfare bill. Continuing high unemployment across the country, including worrying figures for women and young people, is a real concern a year into the recovery,” added Mr Alexander.

At local level, where figures are based on Jobseeker’s Allowance claims rather than total unemployment, there was a mixed picture for Suffolk and north Essex.

Most parts of Suffolk recorded modest falls in the claimant count, the biggest being in Mid Suffolk where the total fell by 44 to 1,038 and the unemployment rate by 0.1 of a percentage point to 1.8%.

Smaller falls left the rate unchanged in Ipswich, down 20 to 3,486 (4.2%), Suffolk Coastal, down 14 to 1,323 (1.8%), Waveney, down 13 to 2,864 (4.1%) and Forest Heath, down nine to 829 (2.1%).

The exceptions were Babergh, where the count remained unchanged at 1,030 (a rate of 2.0%), and St Edmundsbury, where the total grew by 48 last month to 1,443 (with the rate unchanged at 2.2%).

In north Essex, however, the local rate grew by 0.1% in both Tendring, where the count grew by 90 to 3,570 (a rate of 4.2%), and Braintree, up 71 to 2,565 (2.8%). Colchester also saw a substantial increase, up 75 to 3,108, although the rate remained unchanged at 2.6%.

Rates were also unchanged in Maldon, where the count was up three at 888 (2.2%), Chelmsford, down seven to 2,592 (2.4%), and Uttlesford, down 27 to 785 (1.7%).