UK unemployment at 17-year high

Unemployment rises again to 8.4%, with young people continuing to feel the brunt.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 27 Apr 2012
Following months of steady rises, the unemployment rate is now 8.4%. Almost 2.7m people are out of work, after another 28,000 people were unemployed in the three months to January. This pushed the unemployment rate up by a percentage point from 8.3% in the previous quarter, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

It means unemployment in the UK is now at a 17-year high. And young people are finding the recruitment squeeze the hardest to crack, as employers put more value on skills and experience. The number of 18-24 year olds unemployed rose by 16,000 in the quarter to 1.04m, meaning more than one in five are out of work.

It’s not all rosy for those people in work either, who are facing pay squeezes. Wages increased by an average of 1.4% in the year to January, down by 0.5% on the previous month. With inflation at 3.6%, people are finding their take-home pay is falling in real terms.

But there is something to be positive about. The rise in unemployment is the slowest it’s been in almost a year. There has also been a rise in the number of people in work, which increased by 9,000 to 29.1m. And compared to our European neighbours, we’re holding up rather well. The unemployment rate is 10% in France, 19.2% in Greece and 23.3% in Spain.

Britain’s private sector is also bearing fruit, other ONS figures show. Employment in the private sector increased by 45,000 to 23m in the last quarter of 2011. The squeeze in the public sector continued, however: public sector employment fell by 37,000 to 5.94m. In the last year, 270,000 jobs have been lost as the government cuts public-sector spending.

So all hopes for a job market recovery are now pinned on the private sector. Although if public sector job cuts continue steaming ahead at the rate they did last year, the private sector will have quite a job of its own keeping up.

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Economy Misc

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