Economy: Jobless rate hits 16-year high as full-time employment falls

THE UK’s unemployment rate hit a 16-year high today following another increase in the jobless total.

Official figures showed that total unemployment grew by 48,000 in the three months to December, to 2.67million, the smallest increase since last summer but representing a jobless rate of 8.4%, the worst figure since the end of 1995.

The narrower count of those qualifying to claim the Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 6,900 in January to 1.6 million, the 11th consecutive monthly increase.

The increase in the claimant count was even more pronounced at local level, where the figures are not adjusted for normal seasonal variations ? in this case, the end of temporary Christmas jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors.

The biggest increase in Suffolk was in the Waveney district where the count increased by 309 to 3,317 and the unemployment by 0.4 of a percentage point to 4.7%, while the rates increased by 0.3% in both Ipswich, up 224 to 4,431 (a rate of 5.3%), and Forest Heath, up 86 to 971 (2.4%).

Elsewhere in the county, rates grew by 0.1%, including Babergh, up 52 to 1,309 (2.6%), Mid Suffolk, up 23 to 1,207 (2.1%), St Edmundsbury, up 56 to 1,680 (2.6%) and Suffolk Coastal, up 71 to 1,528 (2.1%).

The worst hit districts In north and mid Essex, with increases in the rate of 0.2%, were Chelmsford, up 274 to 3,103 (2.8%), Colchester, up 148 to 3,479 (2.9%), and Tendring, up 134 to 3,870 (4.6%).

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There were 0.1% increases in Braintree, up 165 to 2,693 (2.9%), and Maldon, up 46 to 954 (2.4%), while in Uttlesford an increase in the total of just seven, to 834, left the rate unchanged at 1.7%.

Nationally, the number of people in employment during the quarter to December increased by 60,000 to 29million, but this was due to a rise of 90,000 in the number of part-time workers to 6.6million. The number of people working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs rose by 83,000 to 1.35million.

Around 164,000 workers were made redundant or took voluntary redundancy in the final quarter of last year, up by 17,000 from the three months to September.

And although the number of job vacancies increased by 11,000 compared with the previous quarter to 476,000, this was 21,000 down on the same period a year ago.