UK jobless total falls to six-year low

Total unemployment in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in more than six years, the Office for N

Total unemployment in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in more than six years, the Office for National Statistics said today. - Credit: PA

Unemployment in the UK has fallen to its lowest level for more than six years, official figures showed today – with most parts of Suffolk and north Essex following the downward trend.

The jobless total fell by 58,000 between September and November to 1.91million, the lowest since autumn 2008, while a record 30m people were in work.

The narrower count of those eligible to claim the Jobseeker’s Allowance fell in December by 29,600 to 867,000, the 26th consecutive monthly cut, said the Office for National Statistics.

Average earnings increased by 1.7% in the year to November, up by 0.3% on the previous month and confirming a return to real growth in pay when compared with November’s inflation rate of 1.0%. (Inflation fell further, to 0.5%, in December, with the decline driven by the global fall in oil prices feeding through to petrol and diesel pumps.)

Unemployment has now fallen by 418,000 over the past year, although the latest quarterly reduction was the smallest since July to September 2013. The jobless rate is now 5.8% compared with 7.1% a year ago.

Long-term unemployment (those out of work for more than a year) also fell during the quarter to November, by 185,000 to 658,000, although the number of jobless young people (aged 16 to 24) increased by 30,000 to 764,000, the first quarterly rise since June-August 2013.

In Suffolk, Jobseeker’s Allowance claims fell across the county last month with the exception of Waveney, where the county grew by 51 to 1,321 and the unemployment rate by 0.1 of a percentage point to 2.0%.

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The biggest falls, cutting the local rate by 0.1% in each case, came in Mid Suffolk, down 60 to 524 (a rate of 0.9%), Ipswich, down 38 to 2,030 (2.3%), and Forest Heath, down 14 to 335 (0.8%).

Smaller falls left rates unchanged in Suffolk Coastal, down 12 to 514 (0.7%), Babergh, down 10 to 474 (0.9%), and St Edmundsbury, down six to 731 (1.1%).

In Essex, Tendring bucked the trend with the claimant count climbing by 109 to 2,167 and the unemployment rate by 0.1% to 2.8%.

However, there were 0.1% falls in the rate in Braintree, where the count fell by 57 to 1,203 (a rate of 1.3%), Chelmsford, down 94 to 1,372 (1.3%), Colchester, down 50 to 1,411 (1.2%), and Maldon, down 16 to 393 (1.0), while a smaller fall in Uttlesford, down five to 335, left the rate unchanged at 0.7%.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “We have reached an important milestone in this country’s jobs-led recovery, with unemployment falling below 6% for the first time in six years. Welfare reform has played an instrumental part in this.

“We know that British people want to work hard and get on, but all too often in the past the welfare state hindered rather than helped - thwarting ambition and killing off hope. We put an end to that and now the number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits is the lowest for a generation, and there are record numbers of people in work.

“Thanks to our long-term economic plan, businesses are feeling confident about the future. Jobs are being created and salaries are rising, meaning that increasing numbers of people are feeling the security and hope for the future that comes with a regular wage.”

However, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “The ‘jobs factory’ in Britain the Prime Minister talks about is creating mainly low-skilled, low-paid and precarious jobs that reflect economic growth linked to the growth in the population.

“GDP per head is still 3% below 2007 levels and is the reason most workers have seen little or no evidence of any recovery.

“The fall in oil prices is providing hard-pressed families with the first relief they have experienced since the onset of the recession nearly seven years ago.”

And shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: “Today’s fall in overall unemployment is welcome, but wages remain sluggish and working people are £1,600 a year worse off since 2010.

“Today’s figures also show a worrying rise in youth unemployment. The Government should bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people into work.”