Unemployment benefit claims edge higher across most of Suffolk and north Essex

The UK's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest since the summer of 1975, with a record number o

The UK's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest since the summer of 1975, with a record number of people in work. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Jobless rates remained unchanged across much of Suffolk and north Essex last month despite the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits edging higher in many areas.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that, across the UK as whole, total unemployment has fallen to its lowest in a decade, with a record number of job vacancies on offer.

The jobless total was cut by 45,000 in the quarter to February to 1.56m, down 141,000 on a year ago and the lowest since the end of 2006.

This came as the number of people in work continued to increase, rising by 39,000 to 31.8m, representing an employment rate of 74.6%, the joint highest since records began in 1971, while vacancies rose by 16,000 to a record 767,000, with strong growth in the accommodation and food services sectors.

However, the narrower count of those eligible to claim unemployment-related benefits, increased last month by 18,140 compared with February to 821,720 – a trend followed in most parts of Suffolk and north Essex.

The biggest increases in Suffolk, sending the employment rate 0.1 of a percentage point higher in both cases, were in Waveney, where the count grew by 110 to 2,265, representing a rate of 3.4%, and Forest Heath, where an increase of 15 to 350 was enough to push the rate up to 0.9%.

Rates were unchanged elsewhere in the county, including Babergh, where the count rose by five to 450 (a rate of 0.9%), Ipswich, up 55 to 1,860 (2.1%), Mid Suffolk, up 35 to 500 (0.8%), St Edmundsbury, unchanged at 760 (1.1%), and Suffolk Coastal, down five to 525 (0.7%).

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In Essex, rates were unchanged in Chelmsford, up 15 to 1,260 (1.2%), Colchester, up 20 to 1,400 (also 1.2%), Maldon, up 15 to 385 (1.0%), Tendring, down five to 2,250 (2.9%), and Uttlesford, also down five to 245 (0.5%). In Braintree, however, a fall of 65 to 1.020 saw the rate dip by 0.1 to 1.1%.

Yesterday’s figures also showed that average earnings in the UK increased by 2.3% in the year to February, unchanged from the previous month and in line with the current CPI inflation rate.

Senior ONS statistician David Freeman said: “A joint record employment rate and a new record high for the number of vacancies point to continued strength in the labour market.

“However, higher inflation, coupled with subdued earnings increases, means that the real growth rate in pay has tailed off.”