Unemployment total hits 2.5 million

UNEMPLOYMENT has hit a 16-year high of 2.5 million, official figures revealed today, despite a further fall in the number of people claiming the Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Total unemployment grew by 43,000 in the three months to February to its highest level since 1994, according to data from the Office for National Statistics

And the number of people classed as “economically inactive”, which includes students, carers and those who have simply given up looking for work, soared by 110,000 to 8.16million, the most recorded since records began in 1971.

With the number of people in work slumping by 89,000 to 28.8million, the lowest since the end of 2005, the UK’s employment rate is now 72%, the lowest since 1996.

However, the Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant count fell by 32,900 last month to 1.54million, representing the fourth fall in the last five months, and the number of job vacancies increased by 9,000 to 475,000 in the three months to March.

Claimant counts in Suffolk and north Essex followed the downward trend last month, with the biggest falls being seen in Waveney, where the total was 180 lower at 2,905, cutting the local unemployment rate by 0.3 of a percentage point to 4.4%, and in Babergh, where the count fell by 72 to 1,250 and the rate by 0.2% to 2.5%.

Small falls, in each case representing a 0.1% fall in the local rate, were recorded in Forest Heath, down 60 to 1,019, (a rate of 2.5%), Ipswich, down 115 to 3,795 (5.0%), Mid Suffolk, down 57 to 1,151 (2.1%), St Edmudnsbury, down 89 to 1,647 (2.7%) and Suffolk Coastal, down 71 to 1,519 (2.1%).

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It was a similar picture across most of north and mid Essex, with 0.1% falls being recorded in Braintree, down 106 to 2,967 (3.4%), Colchester, down 84 to 3,314 (2.8%), Maldon, down 23 to 1,096 (2.9%), Tendring, down 100 to 3,746 (6.6%) and Uttlesford, down 17 to 935 (2.1%).

The exception was Chelmsford where a fall of 26, cutting the total to 2,985, left the rate unchanged at 2.9%.