Unemployment-related benefit claims edge higher in Suffolk and north Essex

The number of people in work has reached a record high, while earnings have "nudged up" although sti

The number of people in work has reached a record high, while earnings have "nudged up" although still growing more slowly than prices, new figures reveal. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Unemployment in the UK has edged higher despite the number of people in work reaching a new record level.

Employment grew by 168,000 in the quarter to January to 32.2m, the highest figure since records began in 1971.

But total unemployment during the same period rose by 24,000 to 1.45m, although the figure remains 127,000 lower than a year ago, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

And the narrower count of those eligible to claim benefit increased by 9,200 to 837,800 last month - the highest for more than three years - with the upward trend being reflected across Suffolk and north Essex.

The biggest increases in Suffolk, in each case raising the local jobless rate by 0.1 of a percentage point, were in Ipswich, where the count rose by 90 to 1,870 (a rate of 2.2%), Babergh, up 85 to 535 (1.0%), Waveney, also up 85 to 2,560 (3.9%), and St Edmundsbury, up 55 to 925 (1.4%).

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Smaller changes left the rate unchanged in Mid Suffolk, up to 470 (0.8%), Suffolk Coastal, up 15 to 530 (0.7%), and Forest Heath, up 20 to 375 (0.9%).

In north and mid Essex, the rate rose by 0.1 in Braintree, up 100 to 1,140 (1.2%), Tendring, up 45 to 2,235 (2.9%), and Uttlesford, up 40 to 315 (0.6%).

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Due to the rounding effect, a rise of 10 in Maldon, to 400, was also enough to nudge the rate 0.1 higher, to 1.1%, while the rate remained unchanged Chelmsford, up 40 to 1,215 (1.1%), and Colchester, up 30 to 1,420 (1.2%).

The increase in claimant count totals nationally is due, at least in part, to the phased roll-out of Universal Credit, under which a broader range of people are required to look for work compared with the Jobseeker’s Allowance

And the increase in total unemployment during the past quarter largely reflects a fall of 136,000 in the number of people classed as economically inactive, such as students and those on long-term sick leave or no longer looking for work, to a joint record low rate of 21%.

The labour market data from the ONS also shows an easing of the squeeze on households’ spending power, with average earnings rising by 2.8% in the year to January – the strongest growth since September 2015. This was still just short of the January inflation rate of 3.0% but slightly ahead of February’s rate of 2.7%, announced earlier this week.

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