UK: Unemployment total rises to highest level since last summer

Unemployment has risen to its highest level since last summer, according to new figures out today

Unemployment has risen to its highest level since last summer, according to new figures out today - Credit: PA

UNEMPLOYMENT in the UK has risen by 70,000 to 2.56million, the worst figure since last summer, official data revealed today.

The number of people in work fell by 2,000 in the quarter to February to just under 30million – the first time the figure has dipped since autumn 2011.

Today’s data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that 900,000 people have been out of work for more than a year, an 8,000 increase on the three months to November, while the number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds rose by 20,000 to 979,000.

However, there was a seasonally-adjusted fall of 7,000 in Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants last month, to 1.53million, while the unadjusted figure was down by more than 29,000 at around 1.58m – a trend followed in most parts of Suffolk and north Essex.

In Suffolk, the biggest fall came in Waveney, where the count was down by 141 compared with February at 3,079, leaving the unemployment rate 0.3 of a percentage point lower at 4.5%.

Jobless rates fell by 0.1% in Babergh, where the count fell by 52 to 1,256 (a rate of 2.4%), Ipswich, down 80 to 3,930 (4.5%), Mid Suffolk, down 36 to 1,091 (1.8%), and Suffolk Coastal, down 77 to 1,260 (1.7%).

In Forest Heath, the count fell by 12 to 977, leaving the rate unchanged at 2.5%, while in St Edmundsbury the total edged higher by five to 1,642, with the rate also unchanged at 2.3%.

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Falls in the claiming count were recorded across north and mid Essex, although in Maldon the total was just nine lower at 915, leaving the rate unchanged at 2.4%.

Rates elsewhere fell by 0.1%, including Braintree, down four to 2,669 (2.8%), Chelmsford, down 107 to 2,796 (2.6%), Colchester, down 47 to 3,240 (2.8%), Tendring, down 125 to 3,483 (4.5%), and Uttlesford, down 42 to 714 (1.4%).

Despite today’s increase in total unemployment – which, unlike the narrower claimant count figure, includes those not eligible for benefit – the total is 71,000 lower than a year ago.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “Today’s figures show a further fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), including a welcome drop amongst young people.

“But there are still tough challenges ahead. We will continue to give jobseekers all the help and support they need to realise their aspirations.”

Ministers said the number of JSA claimants fell in every region of England, Wales and Scotland, while the number of new claims was at its lowest level for more than four years. The number of young people claiming JSA is down by 2,800 on the month, and is 65,400 lower than last year.

However, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said: “Three years on it’s now clear the Government’s plan is failing, and failing badly. Not only are more people unemployed than at the election, it’s soaring up.

“Yet to add insult to injury this Government is slashing tax credits and child benefit but giving millionaires a tax cut. Families are £891 worse off because of tax and benefit changes and pay packets are now a whopping £1,700 smaller than at the last election. People have to work almost an extra month and a half to make what they did in 2010. Working people are going backwards.

“With the IMF warning George Osborne to change course and unemployment getting worse, it’s clear the time has come for a fresh approach.”