UK jobless total approaches seven-year low

Total unemployment in the UK has reached a near seven year low, official figures showed today.

Total unemployment in the UK has reached a near seven year low, official figures showed today. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Unemployment in the UK has continued to fall and a record 31million people are in now work, according to the final labour market figures before the General Election.

The jobless total fell by 76,000 to 1.84m in the quarter to February, the lowest for almost seven years, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed today.

And the narrower count of those people eligible to claim the Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 20,700 in March to 772,400 – the 29th consecutive monthly decline – with Suffolk and north Essex following the downward trend.

The number of people in work topped 31m in the three months to February representing an increase of more than 500,000 over the past year, the highest total since records began in 1971.

The UK’s unemployment rate is now 5.6%, compared with 6.9% a year ago and 7.9% in May 2010, when the last General Election was held.

Long-term unemployment, those out of work for at least a year, fell by 188,000 to 623,000 in the three months to February while youth unemployment, covering 16- to 24-year-olds, fell by 22,000 to 742,000.

However, the number of people in part-time jobs but wanting full-time work rose by 29,000 compared with the previous quarter to 1.3m. Self-employment was littled changed at 4.5m.

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Meanwhile, average earnings increased by 1.7% in the year to February, 0.2% down on the previous month.

There were double-figure falls in the Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant count across Suffolk. The largest reductions, cutting the local unemployment rate by 0.1 of a percentage point in each case, were in Babergh, down 34 to 460 (representinig a rate of 0.9%), Forest Heath, down 30 to 333 (0.8%), St Edmundsbury, down 65 to 723 (1.1%), and Waveney, down 75 to 1,339 (2.0%).

Smaller falls, relative to the size of the local workforce, left jobless rates unchanged in Ipswich, down 60 to 2,058 (2.4%), Mid Suffolk, down 32 to 507 (0.9%), and Suffolk Coastal, down 10 to 494 (0.7%).

It was a similar picture in north and mid Essex where Chelmsford led the way with a fall of 116 to 1,435, cutting the rate by 0.1% to 1.3%.

Double digit falls also cut the rate by 0.1% in Braintree, down 42 to 1,234 (1.3%), Colchester, down 14 to 1,427 (1.2%), Maldon, down 22 to 428 (1.1%), and Tendring, down 90 to 2,112 (2.8%). In Maldon, a fall of 13 to 312 left the rate unchanged at 0.6%.

Dr John Philpott, director of The Jobs Economist, said: “The quarterly increase of 248,000 in the number of people in work in the UK is remarkably strong. With two-thirds of these additional people employed full-time and almost all employees in permanent jobs this surge indicates real momentum in the ongoing jobs recovery.

“Together with zero price inflation, the jobs boom is helping improve real incomes despite the fact that wage pressure remains subdued.

“However, the rise in employment and real wages continues to mask severe underlying weakness in labour productivity. This will have to improve markedly if the current recovery in living standards is to be sustained into the medium and long term.”