Local jobless count up 10% in a month

UNEMPLOYMENT in Suffolk and north Essex climbed by more than 10% last month as the national total approached 2 million, official figures revealed yesterday.

UNEMPLOYMENT in Suffolk and north Essex climbed by more than 10% last month as the national total approached 2 million, official figures revealed yesterday.

The number of people claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance grew nationally by 77,900 in December to 1.16 million - the second-biggest monthly increase since 1991 and the worst total since 2000.

And the total number of people out of work, including those not eligible for benefit, increased by 131,000 to 1.92million, the highest figure for more than a decade.

With the spate of job cuts announced since the start of 2009 not yet showing up in the figures, the overall total is all but certain to top the 2 million mark next month.

The claimant count in Suffolk grew by 918 or 9.8% last month compared with November while the figure of north and mid Essex increased by 1,051 or 10.7%.

Following increases of 10.1% and 15.1% respectively between October and November, the latest figures mean that number of people claiming unemployment benefit locally has risen by nearly a quarter in the past two months.

Most Read

Worst hit last month, with the local unemployment rate rising by 0.3 of a percentage point in each case, were Babergh, where the county grew by 119 to 979 (a rate of 2.0%), Braintree, up 236 to 2,063 (2.4%), Maldon, up 100 to 780 (2.1%), Tendring, up 307 to 2,906 (3.7%) and Waveney, up 174 to 2,117 (3.5%).

Increases in the local rate of 0.2% were recorded in Colchester, up 202 to 2,582 (2.3%), Ipswich, up 157 to 2,895 (3.8%), Mid Suffolk, up 100 to 927 (1.7%), St Edmundsbury, up 158 to 1,368 (2.2%) and Suffolk Coastal, up 145 to 1,105 (1.6%).

Other districts escaped with an increase of 0.1%, including Chelmsford, up 137 to 1,970 (1.9%), Forest Heath, up 65 to 687 (1.7%) and Uttlesford, up 69 to 538 (1.2%).

East of England regional minister Barbara Follett said the jobs market was currently “in the eye of the storm”, although there was some brighter spots.

“The sectors doing well in our region are those in which high level of unfilled vacancies,” she said. “We have 20,850 vacancies unfilled, generally in high end, high tech businesses such as pharmaceuticals.

“But we are losing jobs and we have seen a steep loss in the retail sector in recnet months so the next set of figures will be bad too - we really are in the eye of the storm at the moment.

“There are vacancies which may be a little comfort to people who have been made redundant or who are facing losing their jobs. But we are trying to help. I would say to anybody who feels they are going to lose their job to go immediately to JobCentre Plus.

“We are giving them increased money to help people as much as they can, with mortgages and bills but mainly to try to get them back into the job market as soon as possible. And the figures we've got show people are taking up jobs as well. There's a flow in and a flow out but it will get worse before it gets better.”

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses are being increasingly forced against their will to let good staff go. Even with some staff accepting pay freezes and working fewer hours, it's clear that employers are facing serious financial pressures.”

Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI, said: “These numbers are as bad as we expected and are sadly going to get worse. The combination of falling demand and global credit constraints is pushing unemployment sharply higher.”

And TUC general secretary Brendan Barber added: “This is another set of terrible figures, and it is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. Government must stretch every sinew to get the economy moving again.”