Government accused as jobless total rises

THERE was some grim pre-Christmas news from the jobs market today as official figures revealed that unemployment has hit 2.5million.

Total unemployment grew by 35,000 in the quarter to October, representing a jobless rate – the number out work as a percentage of the total workforce – of 7.9%, the highest since the start of the year.

Public sector employment fell by 33,000 to just over six million while private sector jobs remained unchanged at 23.11million.

The number of people unemployed for more than a year rose by 41,000 over the period to 839,000, data from the Office for National Statistics revealed, the worst figure since 1997.

And the number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 28,000 to 943,000, one of the highest figures since records began in 1992 and representing a jobless rate among the young of 19.8%.

The only bright spot was a fall of 1,200 in the number of people receiving the Jobseeker’s Allowance – the so-called claimant count – to 1.46million last month.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “These figures highlight the crucial importance of the action we are taking to keep the economy moving forward.

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“It’s essential to create a stable environment where businesses can flourish and create jobs, with those on benefits at the front of the queue to take them up.”

But Douglas Alexander, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “All of us will be hoping this is a one-off but my fear is that we are now beginning to see the real cost of George Osborne’s economic experiment.

“These worrying figures show that the private sector is not yet creating enough jobs to make up for the posts that are being cut in the public sector.”

Today’s local unemployment figures for Suffolk and north Essex were also mixed, but with most districts seeing modest increases in the claimant count.

Among the exceptions in Suffolk was Ipswich, where the claimant count fell by 33 compared with October to 3,506 and the local unemployment rate by 0.1 of a percentage point to 4.2%.

The count also fell by 32 in Mid Suffolk, to 1,082, and by 11 in Forest Heath, to 838, although the districts’ unemployment rates remained unchanged at 1.9% and 2.1% respectively.

The biggest increases in Suffolk, in each case lifting the local rate by 0.1%, came in St Edmundsbury, up 35 to 1,395 (a rate of 2.2%), and Waveney, up 33 to 2,877 (4.1%).

Smaller increases left the rate unchanged in Babergh, up seven to 1,030 (2.0%), and Suffolk Coastal, up 31 to 1,337 (1.8%).

The picture was also mixed in north and mid Essex, with Chelmsford seeing a fall of 30 in the claimant count to 2,599, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 2.4%.

Relatively small increases also left the rate unchanged in Braintree, up 17 to 2,494 (2.7%), and Maldon, up 18 to 885 (2.2%).

Elsewhere, however, unemployment rates edged up by 0.1%, with the count rising by 14 in Colchester to 3,033 (2.6%), by 82 in Tendring to 3,480 (4.1%) and by 33 in Uttlesford to 812 (1.7%).