Jobless total climbs again

THE Government was given grim jobs news ahead of yesterday's Budget as new figures revealed that unemployment had hit its highest level since Labour came to power in 1997.

THE Government was given grim jobs news ahead of yesterday's Budget as new figures revealed that unemployment had hit its highest level since Labour came to power in 1997.

The number of people looking for work jumped by 177,000 in the three months to February to reach 2.1 million - the biggest quarterly rise since 1991.

The total is the worst since February 1997, a few months before Labour won the General Election.

The number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance increased for the 13th month in a row in March, up by 73,700 to 1.46 million, the highest total since September 1997.


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The UK now has an unemployment rate of 6.7%, the highest since the summer of 1997, yesterday's figures showed.

Job vacancies fell by 68,000 in the quarter to March to a record low of 462,000, while a record 270,000 people were made redundant in the three months to February.

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The ONS also reported a fall in the number of people in work in the quarter to February, down by 126,000 to 29.27 million, the lowest since last autumn.

Locally, the jobseeker's allowance claimant count again increased in every district across Suffolk and north Essex, although in most cases by a smaller margin than seen in recent months.

The biggest rises, increasing the local unemployment rate by 0.3 of a percentage point in each case, were in Ipswich, where the count rose by 181 to 3,984 (a rate of 5.3%), Forest Heath, up 151 to 1,091 (2.7%) and Maldon, up 97 to 1,148 (3.1%).

There were 0.2% increases in Babergh, up 190 to 1,530 (3.1%), St Edmundsbury, up 89 to 2,17 (3.3%), Braintree, up 196 to 3,041 (3.5%), Chelmsford, up 193 to 2,920 (2.8%), Colchester, up 170 to 3,639 (3.2%) and Uttlesford, up 100 to 916 (2.1%).

Increases of 0.1% were recorded in Mid Suffolk, up 44 to 1,334 (2.4%), Waveney, up 72 to 3,225 (4.9%) and Tendring, up 65 to 3,672 (4.7%), while in Suffolk Coastal an increase of 55 to 1,583 left the rate unchanged at 2.2%.

David Kern, chief economist of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “These figures confirm a worsening situation in the labour market and are consistent with our forecast that UK unemployment is set to peek at 3.2 million next year.”

Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors said the figures were “awful”, adding: “The 177,000 increase stamps on any discussion of green shoots and suggests there will be no recovery this year.”

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