Local unemployment soars by 2,000

UNEMPLOYMENT in Suffolk and north Essex soared by more than 2,000 last month it emerged yesterday as the national total topped the one million mark for the first time in eight years.

UNEMPLOYMENT in Suffolk and north Essex soared by more than 2,000 last month it emerged yesterday as the national total topped the one million mark for the first time in eight years.

The number of people claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance increased by 75,700 compared with October - the biggest monthly increase since the spring of 1991 - taking the total to 1.07 million.

Suffolk and Essex opposition politicians branded the figures “depressing” and “very alarming” while Minister for the East of England Barbara Follett warned small businesses to get help if they are experiencing problems and not leave it too late.

The overall number of people out of work, including those not eligible for benefits, increased by 137,000 in the quarter to October to 1.86 million, the highest figure for more than a decade.

The claimant count has now increased for 10 months in a row, the worst sequence since a run of 16 monthly rises from March 2005.

The pictured was no brighter locally, with the November claimant count across Suffolk and north and mid Essex up by 2,145, or 12.6%, compared with October.

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The biggest increase came in the Tendring district, where the count increased by 334 to 2,599 and the unemployment rate by 0.5 of a percentage point to 3.4%.

Also badly hit, with the rate increasing by 0.3% in each case, were St Edmundsbury, where the count grew by 139 to 1,210 (a rate of 2.0%), Mid Suffolk, up 146 to 827 (1.5%), Braintree, up 245 to 1,827 (2.1%), Chelmsford, up 255 to 1,833 (1.8%), and Maldon, up 120 to 680 (1.8%).

Most other districts saw the unemployment rate rise by 0.2%, including Ipswich, up 184 to 2,738 (3.6%), Colchester, up 270 to 2,380 (2.1%), Babergh, up 121 to 860 (1.7%), Forest Heath, up 82 to 632 (1.6%), Waveney, up 115 to 2,117 (3.2%) and Uttlesford, up 63 to 469 (1.1%).

Suffolk Coastal completed an across-the-board increase, with the count rising by 71 to 960 and the unemployment rate by 0.1% to 1.4%.

Mrs Follett said one of the saddest things for her was listening to members of business support group Business Link tell her about small firms which had come to them too late, instead of when problems began to emerge for them. She urged them to get help early on, and said the Government was adopting a “tried and tested” formula to get the country out of the economic downturn by giving it a kickstart.

She said people were facing a “cash crunch” much more than a credit crunch, but denied the situation was bleak.

There were more people in work now than there were last year, and that there were half a million job vacancies. The Government was helping people to train in order to gain the skills needed to fill them, she added.

Conservative MP for South Suffolk Tim Yeo said he felt “deeply sympathetic” to those who had lost their jobs as a result of the economic situation.

“It's very alarming quite frankly but I think it's a warning of what's happening in the economy. I'm not at all hopeful that this trend is going to be reversed in the near future. I think there's a collapse of both consumer and business confidence and people are avoiding spending. If they can defer buying any new items they do so,” he said. “Even perfectly strong businesses are having difficulty having their bank facilities renewed.”

Colchester's Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell described it as a “gloomy scenario”.

“This is depressing news at any time but as we come up to Christmas and New Year even more so and it just shows the recession it biting hard and I suspect a lot of this is connected to the construction industry and allied trades. This is a very worrying situation and my big fear is it's going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.