Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 15:13 UK
UK jobless total climbs to 2.4m

Employment minister Jim Knight: "Clearly we are in the middle of a global recession"

UK unemployment rose by a record 281,000 to 2.38 million in the three months to May, the Office for National Statistics has said.

The jobless rate increased to 7.6%, the highest in more than 10 years.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit increased by 23,800 in June to 1.56 million, which was less than analysts had forecast.

Unemployment among young people has been especially acute, as firms cut jobs to reduce costs in the downturn.

Fear of unemployment

Hugh Pym
Hugh Pym, chief economics correspondent, BBC News
On the face of it, the unemployment figures are horrific. A record quarterly increase of 281,000 cannot be explained any other way.

The total of 2.38 million jobless is the highest since late 1995, before Labour came to power in the aftermath of the 1990s recession under the Conservatives.

But there is another side to the story.

The rise in the narrower claimant count in June was less than expected.

Experts are scratching their heads over this. June's claimant count is the more up-to-date labour indicator.

ONS Officials point out that the rise in claimant count over the three months to May was about 220,000 - not far off the 281,000 on the wider measure.

But analysts are unconvinced. They want more analysis of the two measures.

Young people - those up to 24 years old - have been particularly hard hit with unemployment leaping to a 16-year high of 726,000.

The number of those out of work for more than a year rose by 46,000 to 528,000, the highest for 11 years.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "It's particularly worrying that over half a million unemployed people have been out of work for at least a year, including 133,000 young unemployed people."

"With a new generation of school and college leavers soon starting to look for work, our unemployment crisis will get even bigger.

Separately on Wednesday a BBC survey suggested two-thirds of people across the UK know someone who has lost a job in the recession.

A further four in 10 fear losing their job in the current climate, the survey of 1,048 people by ComRes indicates.

'Conflicting signals'

Even though economic conditions may be stabilising, economists expect unemployment to continue rising this year, as financial uncertainty persists.

Vicky Redwood of Capital Economics said the latest figures contained "conflicting signals about whether conditions in the labour market are getting better or worse".

Unemployment graph

The increase in the unemployment total of 281,000 in the three months to May was the biggest quarterly rise since records of the ILO measure began in 1971.

However, the rise in the claimant count in June was less than expected, and May's increase in the claimant count was revised down to 30,800 from the original estimate of 39,000.

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% of population claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, by parliamentary constituency. Source: ONS

"The claimant count measure of unemployment in June posted its smallest rise in a year. However, the wider ILO measure posted its biggest rise on record," said Ms Redwood.

But, she said, unemployment was unlikely to fall until economic growth returned to its trend rate, and this would take a long time.

Of the different figures released, it is the internationally recognised ILO figure of 2.38 million that is the government's preferred measure for unemployment, because it is a more comprehensive indicator of the job market.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has called for an enquiry into this "conundrum" of the differing figures.


Average UK earnings including bonuses increased at their highest rate since December, up 2.3% in the three months to May from a year ago.

However, excluding bonuses average earnings rose at 2.6% - the lowest rate since records started in 2001.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce described the figures as "grim reading".

"On the basis of these numbers, we reaffirm our forecast that unemployment will peak at around 3.2 million next year."

It's interesting to note that number of part-time jobs has risen slightly in the past year, as the number of full-time jobs has fallen
Stephanie Flanders
BBC economics editor

Not only is unemployment rising, figures show that the number of jobs available has also fallen.

The number of vacancies dropped to a record low of 429,000 in the three months to June, down by 35,000 from the previous quarter.

The number of unemployed men increased by almost 200,000 to 1.46 million, and 84,000 more women were out of work, putting female unemployment at 923,000.


Wales was the only part of the UK to see unemployment fall. During the three months to May, Wales saw 1,000 fewer unemployed people, putting the total at 107,000.

In terms of unemployment rates, the West Midlands has the highest rate at 10.3% while the South East has the lowest at 6.1%.

Soon I'll to have to decide whether to cease trading and effectively make myself redundant
Tim Baldwin

Manufacturing jobs kept declining, down by 201,000 to a record low of 2.6 million.

Urgent action is needed to address unemployment, explained Rachel Reeves, parliamentary candidate for West Leeds and a co-author of a report published on Wednesday by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

"If we are to get Britain back to work, there will have to be large increases in the jobs available in hi-tech manufacturing and private service sectors such as the creative industries."

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Telegraph Record UK unemployment figures will get worse - 28 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Unemployment jumps to 2.38 million - 31 hrs ago
The Independent Young hit by soaring jobless toll soars to record levels - 34 hrs ago
Times Online Youth unemployment close to one million after record fall in job vacancies - 35 hrs ago
Sky News Record Rise In Jobless Hits Recovery Hopes - 42 hrs ago

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