Jobless total hits 11-year high

Another big jump in the number of people unemployed - and that's before this week's mass redundancies...

The jobless total jumped 140,000 to 1.82m in the three months to September, the Office for National Statistics said this morning. That’s the highest total since Labour came to power in 1997, and it takes the overall rate of unemployment to 5.8%. The way things are going, it’s not impossible that the unemployment figure could hit 2m by Christmas…

Whichever way you look at today’s figures, they make pretty grim reading. The three-month figures show a big fall in employment (with manufacturing particularly hard-hit), plus a slowdown in earnings growth. What’s more, all the signs suggest that things have got even worse since: October apparently saw a 36,500 rise in the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants. That's not quite as bad as economists expected, but it's still the biggest jump for 16 years, and the ninth consecutive monthly increase.

But if October was bad, it looks like November could be even worse. This week alone, corporate behemoths like Virgin Media, Taylor Wimpey, GlaxoSmithKline and Yell have all announced swingeing job cuts, while Vodafone refused to rule out the possibility yesterday as it announced a £1bn cost-cutting programme. Others will surely follow; employment is always a lagging indicator, so it’s bound to take some time before companies bite the bullet and start making people redundant.

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