Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 15:49 UK

Probe into unemployment data gap

A Jobcentre in Swindon
The newly unemployed may be delaying claiming benefit

The government has launched an investigation into the gap between the number of people out of work and those who are claiming unemployment benefit.

It comes after data last month showed the jobless rate, under International Labour Organisation (ILO) rules, rose to 7.6% in the three months to May.

At the same time, the rate of people claiming unemployment benefit in June was just 4.8%.

The latest official unemployment numbers will be released on Wednesday.

Redundancy payments

The government investigation has been ordered by Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper.

"It's fairly open, the key issue is establishing why there is a difference in the trends of the key figures," said a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions.

He added that a possible cause for the discrepancy between the two sets of figures was that people who had recently lost their jobs were relying on redundancy payments, their savings, or the earnings of their partner, instead of immediately applying for unemployment benefit.

Last month's figures showed that the number of people out of work, as measured under ILO rules, rose by 281,000 to 2.38 million in the three months to May, the biggest quarterly rise since records began in 1971.

The jobless rate of 7.6% for the three months was the highest in more than 10 years, while the claimant rate of 4.8% was the highest in more than 11 years.

The figures are expected to rise again when the Office for National Statistics releases its latest unemployment data on Wednesday.

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