Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Unemployment rise continues to slow

Yvette Cooper on the latest UK unemployment figures

The number of people unemployed in the UK rose by 21,000 between August and October to 2.49 million.

The increase was the smallest rise in the jobless total since the March-to-May period in 2008, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed.

However, the number of 16-to-24 year olds who are unemployed rose to 952,000, the highest figure since records began in 1992.

The overall unemployment rate is now at 7.9%, according to the ONS figures.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit fell by 6,300 in November to 1.63 million, the first fall since February 2008.

Although the number of out of work 18-to-24 year olds increased by 26,000, this figure was offset by a fall in the number of jobless 16 and 17 year olds of 20,000.


The government said the problem of rising unemployment was far from over.

The labour market is usually the last to recover from a recession - but this time around it appears to be leading the rest of the economy out
Stephanie Flanders, BBC economics editor

"It is still tough for a lot of people and we still expect unemployment to increase again in the New Year. So we are determined to do more, supporting a total of 400,000 extra youth opportunities over the next 18 months," said Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

But the Liberal Democrat work and pensions secretary, Steve Webb, said the figures showed the government was failing to solve the problem of youth unemployment.

"This is another sad milestone for young people. The government's headline-grabbing announcements haven't even scratched the surface of the problems young people are facing in this recession."

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% of population claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, by parliamentary seat

Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May accused the government of trying to solve the problem with empty promises.

"Young people want real help to find work but almost two years since the recession began and unemployment started to rise, all we've had from Labour is endless headline grabbing announcements with very little action to back them up."

"We seriously risk losing a generation of talented young people unless we get a handle on this crisis," she continued.

The TUC has described the situation as a "national emergency".

'Encouraging figure'

The ONS figures showed that the south-east of England saw the biggest rise in unemployment during the quarter, up by 15,000 people. Jobless totals fell in the North West, the West Midlands and the South West.

South East: Up 15,000 to 279,000
Wales: Up 9,000 to 125,000
North East: Up 6,000 to 124,000
Yorks/Humber: Up 6,000 to 239,000
East Midlands: Up 2,000 to 172,000
London: Up 2,000 to 377,000
N Ireland: No change, 54,000
East: No change, 197,000
Scotland: Down 2,000 to 187,000
South West: Down 4,000 to 176,000
North West: Down 5,000 to 287,000
West Midlands: Down 8,000 to 274,000
Source: ONS

The number of people unemployed for more than a year increased by 49,000 in the latest quarter to 620,000, the highest since 1997.

However, the figures also showed that the total number of people in employment rose by 53,000 over the period.

The figures could indicate a general improvement in the job market, according to analysts,

"It's a very encouraging figure, not just the unexpected fall in claimant count unemployment, but the fact that the ILO figures show that employment rose," said Howard Archer from Global Insight.

"It's noticeable that the rise in employment was due to an increase in part-time jobs outweighing full-time employment, " he continued.

Teacher on why she is forced to work two part-time jobs

The number of people who say they are working part-time because they cannot find a full time position rose by 34,000 in the quarter and now stands at over 1 million.

This shows that the overall stability of the jobs market is still delicate, according to Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

"The emergence of 'part-time Britain' is good insofar as it helps keep the lid on headline unemployment, but it is an underlying sign of the pain still being inflicted on the UK workforce by the recession."

Other analysts say that the general slowdown in the increase in unemployment could point to an improvement in the wider economy.

"These figures will bolster hopes that the recession has ended in the fourth quarter of 2009 with unemployment proving to be more of a contemporaneous indicator than a lagging one during this recession," said Colin Ellis, an economist with Daiwa Securities.

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