UK unemployment reaches 2.56 million

As Lady Thatcher is buried, the dole queues are again lengthening. Unemployment rose by 70,000 to 2.56 million between December and February, according to the Office for National Statistics.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

It appears that the UK labour market has caught up with grim economic reality. The jobs recovery of 2012 has now stalled and the UK unemployment rate has hit its worst levels since last summer, with 7.9% of the population out of work. The ONS data also reveals that some 900,000 people have been out of work for more than a year, an 8,000 increase on the three months to November.

The number of people in work has also dropped, with 2,000 fewer people in employment compared to the last quarter. That takes the employment rate to just under 30 million, the first time the figure has dipped since autumn 2011.

After the surge of people in part-time work last year, it appears that the trend is now coming to and end: 62,000 fewer people (eight million) now work in part-time jobs, while 60,000 more are in full-time employment, taking the total to 21.6 million.

More worryingly, the ONS has revealed that youth unemployment is continuing to rise; the number of unemployed people aged 16 to 24 is up by 20,000 to just shy of one million (979,000).

There's more bad news on the real pay front too. Average earnings have increased 0.8% across the year to February 2013, but this is 0.4% down on the rate to January and marks the lowest growth rate since the end of 2009. With inflation running at 2.8%, that's bad news for the pound in your pocket.

However, the figures are not looking as bad as they were at the height of the recession. Despite this latest increase in unemployment, the total is still 71,000 lower than a year ago.

Alan Clarke, economist at Scotiabank, says: 'It's not a disaster, but a lot of the froth and really good news we had over the last year on jobs is becoming exhausted, which shouldn't be a surprise when there is not much growth around.'


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