Suffolk/Essex: Jobless figure edges higher as national total hits near 17-year high

UNEMPLOYMENT continued to edge higher in Suffolk and north Essex last month, official figures revealed today, with the national total hitting a near 17-year high of almost 2.7million.

The narrower count of those eligible for the Jobseeker’s Allowance also increased, for the 12th month in a row, to reach 1.6million in February, up 7,200 on the previous month and the worst figure since the end of 2009.

However, the increase of 28,000 in total unemployment in the quarter to January was the lowest for almost a year and the number of people in work increased by 9,000 during the same period.

The Office for National Statistics said this included an increase of 45,000 in the number of people employed in the private sector, taking to the total of 23million, which more than offset a fall of 37,000 in public sector employment, to just under six million, as the Government’s cuts in public spending continued to bite.

However, the number of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job increased by 110,000 to 1.3million, the highest since records began in 1992. Total part-time employment was 60,000 higher at 6.6million.

The jobless rate nationally now stands at 8.4% in terms of total unemployment, up 0.1 of a percentage point on the previous quarter and the highest since the end of 1995, while the claimant count rate is 4.2%, up 0.1% on the previous month.

The national rise in the claimant count rate was mirrored by increases of 0.1% in all parts of Suffolk and in all but one area in north and mid Essex.

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The biggest increases in Suffolk were recorded in Ipswich, up 120 to 4,551 (a rate of 5.4%), St Edmundsbury, up 85 to 1,765 (2.7%) and Suffolk Coastal, up 75 to 1,603 (2.2%).

However, there were also increases in Babergh, up 68 to 1,377 (2.7%), Mid Suffolk, up 62 to 1,269 (2.2%), Forest Heath, up 60 to 1,031 (2.5%), and Waveney, up 42 to 3,359 (4.8%).

In north and mid Essex, an increase of just 18 in the claimant count in Tending, taking the total to 3,888, left the rate unchanged at 4.6%.

Elsewhere, however, rates edged 0.1% higher in line with the national average, including Colchester, up 168 to 3,647 (3.0%), Chelmsford, up 76 to 3,179 (2.9%), Braintree, up 30 to 2,723 (3.0%), Uttlesford, up 26 to 860 (1.8%) and Maldon, up 15 to 969 (2.5%).

The Department for Work and Pensions said today that unemployment in the UK remained below the European Union average while employment remains above the EU average. While unemployment is 8.4% in the UK, it is 10% in France, 23.3% in Spain and 10.1% across the EU as a whole.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “This is a more encouraging set of figures, with signs that the labour market is stabilising, but there is clearly still a big challenge ahead to bring down unemployment and get people back to work.

“The international economic outlook remains difficult but we will do everything we can to help the unemployed find jobs.”

However, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The rise in employment is encouraging, but the new jobs being created are mainly part-time. These jobs are not paying enough to replace the full-time earnings that people need.”

He added: “Over a quarter of a million public sector jobs were lost in the last year and the private sector recovery we were promised is not materialising.

“Tackling the jobs crisis should be at the centre of the Chancellor’s Budget next week. Bold new measures such as a youth jobs guarantee and tax breaks for investment are needed to get our economy growing again.”