National unemployment total hits 10-year low but numbers in Suffolk and north Essex edge higher

Unemployment fell by 7,000 to 1.6m in the three months to December.
Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Unemployment fell by 7,000 to 1.6m in the three months to December. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Unemployment-related benefit claims in most parts of Suffolk and north Essex edged higher last month but the national jobless total hit a 10-year low in December, according to official figures released today.

More than 31.8m adults were in a job in the three months to December, 300,000 more than a year earlier, after a quarterly rise of 37,000, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed, while unemployment fell by 7,000 to just under 1.6 million.

That figure is the lowest since the start of 2006, giving a jobless rate of 4.8%, one of the lowest in Europe.

The narrower count of those eligible to claim unemployment-realted benefits fell by 42,400 in January to 745,000, the biggest seasonally-adjusted monthly fall since the autumn of 2013.

ONS said the claimant count figures were likely to be volatile because of the complexities of rolling out Universal Credit, which was launched in 2013 to replace a number of benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Average earnings increased by 2.6% in the year to December, 0.2% down on the previous month.

ONS senior statistician David Freeman said: “Continued moderate growth in employment has led to a new high in the total employment rate, while the rate for women has reached 70% for the first time on record. Overall, the labour market appears to be edging towards full capacity.”

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The number of people classed as economically inactive has fallen by 31,000 to 8.8m, a rate of 21% of the working population. The figure includes students, people looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work.

The number of people in full-time work has increased by 218,000 over the past year to 23m while part-time employment has risen by 84,000 to 8.5m. The UK’s employment rate of 74.6% is the highest since records began in 1971.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said: “With employment at its highest rate since records began, and unemployment at its lowest in over a decade, we remain in a position of strength.

“Our ongoing welfare reforms will continue to incentivise work and make sure the system is fair to all those who need it and those who pay for it.

“With youth unemployment down, women in work at record levels and number of disabled people in work increasing too, we’re delivering on our pledge to build a country that works for everyone.”


Claimant count figures at local level are not seasonally adjusted and so cannot be compared directly with the national figure, but most parts of Suffolk and north and mid-Essex saw numbers edge slightly higher in January.

In Suffolk, the biggest increase in the claimant count came in Waveney, where the total grew by 125 compared with December to 2,065 and the jobless rate by 0.2 of a percentage point to 3.1%.

There were also 0.1 increases in the rate in St Edmundsbury, where the count rose by 60 to 705 (a rate of 1.0%), and Mid Suffolk, where the count was 10 higher at 450 (0.8%).

Relatively smaller increases left rates unchanged in Babergh, up 20 to 430 (0.8%), Ipswich, up 20 to 1,730 (2.0%), and Suffolk Coastal, up 25 to 495 (0.7%), while Forest Heath bucked the trend, with the count falling by 10 to 275 (a rate of 0.7%, also unchanged).

In north and mid Essex, the biggest increase, relative to the size of the workforce, was in Maldon where the count grew by 40 to 355 and the rate by 0.2 to 1.0%.

Rates elsewhere remained unchanged, including Braintree, up 30 to 1,030 (1.1%), Chelmsford, up 55 to 1,205 (1.1%), Colchester, down five to 1,360 (1.2%), Tendring, up 45 to 2,235 (2.9%), and Uttlesford, up 15 to 265 (0.5%).