Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Wednesday, 17 June 2009 12:19 UK
UK jobless total climbs to 2.4m



The view from a job centre in Wolverhampton

UK unemployment rose to 2.261 million in the three months to April, the highest since November 1996, the Office for National Statistics said.

The jobless rate rose to 7.2%, the highest since July 1997.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose by 39,000 in May, less than the 60,000 which had been forecast by analysts.

Young people have been hard-hit by the recession, with the unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds now at 16.6%.

The claimant count rate rose to 4.8%, the highest since November 1997.

Average earnings rose 0.8%, more than expected, in the three months to April, the ONS said.

This reflects the timing of bonus payments in the financial services sector, it said.

The number of people in work fell by 271,000 over the three months to 29.11 million, the biggest quarterly drop since comparable records began in 1971.

The number of vacancies fell from 659,000 in May 2008 to 424,000 in May this year - a 35.6% drop.

Youth problems

By Martin Shankleman, Employment Correspondent
These latest figures highlight how the jobs market is continuing to deteriorate as the recession bites.

Many of the "new" unemployed are likely to be casualties of the slump, those who have lost their jobs as companies cut back.

But they will soon be joined by a second and more worrying group, the school and college leavers, who are set to enter the jobs market at the worst possible time.

Already, 17% of people aged between 18 to 24 are out of work, and that proportion can only increase in the coming months.

Young people have been particularly hard hit by the recession. In the three months to April, 462,000 people aged 16 and 17 were in employment, 16.5% less than in the same period a year earlier.

In the same three months, 3.5m people in the 18-to-24 age range were in employment, down 4.8% from the same period a year earlier. The unemployment rate in that age group was 16.6%, the highest it has been since 1993, the TUC said.

"Youth unemployment is now at its highest rate for 15 years. And it will get worse when millions of fresh school leavers and graduates start looking for work in the coming weeks," said TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber.

"Young people are experiencing labour difficulties, which will intensify over the summer as this year's school and college leavers enter the labour market," Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said.

The number of men and women of retirement age - plus 65 for men or plus 60 for women - in employment rose by 2.6% in the same period from a year earlier, the only age group to register a rise.

Green shoots?

Analysts welcomed the data, but said it was too early to hail it as a turning point in the recession.

Graph

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "These jobless figures are slightly better than feared, but the overall situation remains grim... It is much too early to talk about the end of recession and it is important not to withdraw the policy stimulus before there is firmer evidence that the economy has stabilised."

"We are certainly moving in the right direction and this is one of a number of very encouraging signals that we have seen," said Alan Clarke, UK economist at BNP Paribas.

However, he added: "The economy may actually start to expand, but it won't be very fast... and until the economy is growing in line with its long-term average we will continue to lose jobs and we will continue to see downward pressure on wages."

"It's better than expected. It is is probably still too soon to conclude that we have reached any turning point, but it is moderately encouraging," said Ross Walker, the UK economist at RBS Financial Markets.

Philip Shaw, the chief economist at Investec, said: "Once again, unemployment figures show a smaller-than-expected rise in the jobless total, which is good news."



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