Suffolk and Essex follow the trend as UK unemployment falls to a near eight-year low

The number of people out of work has fallen to a near eight-year low, according to new figures.

The number of people out of work has fallen to a near eight-year low, according to new figures. - Credit: Evening News � 2009

Unemployment in the UK has fallen to a near eight-year low, according to official figures released today – providing some welcome respite for the Government following a string of industry announcements involving major job losses.

The number of people out of work fell by 99,000 in the three months to November to 1.6million, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed, with the total now 239,000 lower compared with a year ago.

Benefit claims have also continued to fall, with the number of people in receipt of the Jobseeker’s Allowance or the unemployment element of the new Universal Credit declining by 4,300 last month compared with November to 785,900, the lowest since March 2008.

Jobseeker’s Allowance claims in most parts of Suffolk and north Essex followed the national downward trend although there were small increases in the coastal districts, thought to reflect seasonal trends in the tourism sector.

The biggest fall came in Ipswich where the claimant count last month was 128 down compared with November at 1,572 and the unemployment rate 0.2 of a percentage point lower at 1.8%.

Smaller falls elsewhere in Suffolk left the rates unchanged in St Edmundsbury, down 40 to 460 (0.7%), Babergh, down eight to 349 (0.7%), Mid Suffolk, down eight to 373 (0.6%), and Forest Heath, down six to 237 (0.6%).

In Waveney, however, the count climbed by 19 to 957 and the rate by 0.1 to 1.5% and while in Suffolk Coastal the total rose by five to 292, with the rate unchanged at 0.4%.

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The picture was similar in north and mid Essex, with the downward trend bucked in Tendring where the count grew by 34 to 1,660 and the rate by 0.1 to 2.2%.

Chelmsford saw the biggest decline, with the count falling by 71 to 990 and the rate by 0.1 to 0.9%, and in Uttlesford a fall of 15 taking the total to 221 was also enough to cut the rate by 0.1, to 0.4% – the joint lowest, together with Suffolk Coast, in the East of England.

Rates remained unchanged in Colchester, down 28 to 1,132 (1.0%), Braintree, down 22 to 919 (also 1.0%), and Maldon, down two to 293 (0.8%).

Nationally, total employment reached a record 31.3m in the three months to November, a rate of 74%, represening an increase of 267,000 on the previous quater and more than 500,000 higher compared with a year earlier. Job vacancies meanwhile increased by 13,000 to a record high of 756,000.

The past week week, however, has seen a raft of announcements on job losses, notably in steelmaking and retail, which will not filter through into the unemployment figures for several months.

Energy firms also remain under pressure amid a continuing slide in the price of oil and there are broader concerns for the health of the global economy following a further fall in the rate of growth in China.

For now, however, today’s figures from the ONS show that nearly 23m people are in full-time work in the UK, 436,000 more than a year earlier, while 8.4m are working part-time, up by 152,000. The number of workers in part-time jobs wanting a full-time post is now 1.2m, a fall of 21,000 in the latest three months.

Average earnings increased by 2% in the year to November, down by 0.4% compared with the previous month’s figure but still representing strong growth in real terms, with the rate of inflation having hovered around zero throughout 2015.

Employment Minister Priti Patel said: “This is a record-breaking set of figures and has got 2016 off to a fantastic start.

“There are now more people in work than ever before and wages are growing – a credit to hard-working Brits and businesses alike.

“And in a further demonstration of the strength of the UK labour market, today’s figures show there are a record three-quarters of a million vacancies.

“We will build on this throughout the coming year, doubling childcare for working parents and introducing the new National Living Wage, ensuring that everyone has increased financial security and the opportunity to get on and succeed in life.”

However, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Rising employment is good news for those seeking new jobs or moving out of unemployment, but the Government also needs to do more to address job quality.

“While wages are still rising, the rate of progress has slowed and the UK is still facing a lost decade on pay. We need a recovery that delivers both higher employment and strong pay growth.”