Unemployment soars to new 16-year high

THE scale of the jobs crisis facing the new Government was underlined yesterday as new figures showed unemployment soaring further above 2.5million, the highest total since 1994.

The number of people looking for work rose by 53,000 during the quarter to March to 2.51million, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, while the UK’s employment rate slumped to 72%, the lowest since 1996.

The number of people in work fell by 76,000 to 28.83 million, following a reduction of 103,000 in full-time workers compared with a rise of 27,000 part-timers, and job vacancies fell by 6,000 to 475,000, the first quarterly fall since last autumn.

One bright spot in yesterday’s figures was another fall in the number of people claiming the Jobseeker’s Allowance, which dropped by 27,100 last month to 1.52million, the lowest level for a year. The claimant count has now fallen for three months in a row and in five out of the last six months.

The different in trend between the claimant count and total unemployment is down to an increase in the number of people classed as economically inactive which stands at a record high of 8.17million.

The total, which includes students, carers and those who have given up looking for work, increased by 88,000 in the latest quarter and is now the worst since records began in 1971.

At local level, claimant counts across Suffolk and north Essex followed the national downward trend.

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In Suffolk the biggest falls were recorded in Ipswich, where the count fell by 93 compared with March to 3,702, and in Waveney, down 135 to 2,770. The figures represent local unemployment rates of 4.8% and 4.2% respectively, a fall of 0.2 of a percentage point in each case month-on-month.

Smaller falls elsewhere in the county left the local rates down 0.1%, including Babergh, down 73 to 1,177 (2.4%), Forest Heath, down 25 to 994 (2.4%), Mid Suffolk, down 18 to 1,133 (2.0%), St Edmundsbury, down 47 to 1,600 (2.6%) and Suffolk Coastal, down 100 to 1,419 (2.0%).

In Essex, Tendring saw the biggest reduction, with the count falling by 211 to 3,535 and the rate by 0.3% to 4.5%, followed by Maldon, where the count fell by 63 to 1,033 and the rate by 0.2% to 2.7%.

Falls of 0.1% were recorded in Braintree, down 141 to 2,826 (a rate of 3.3%), Chelmsford, down 70 to 2,915 (2.8%), and Colchester, down 94 to 3,220 (2.7%), while in Uttlesford the count fell by 16 to 919, leaving the rate unchanged at 2.1%.