Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

UK unemployment records further fall

Job centre
There are regional differences in the unemployment figures

The number of people unemployed in the UK has fallen again, leaving the jobless rate at 7.8%, figures show.

Total unemployment stood at 2.45 million for the three months to January, down 33,000 on the figure for the previous three months.

But long-term unemployment, covering those out of work for more than a year, rose by 61,000 to 687,000.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 32,300 to 1.59 million in February.

Unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds fell by 34,000 to 715,000, but among the over-50s, joblessness rose by 14,000 to 398,000.


"This is a positive surprise and not before time," said Colin Ellis, Economist at Daiwa Capital Markets, in response to the unemployment figures.

He said that workers were being flexible, so as to remain in the labour market.

"Workers are probably willing to accept lower wages or shorter hours to hang on to their jobs."

Stephanie Flanders
This is not the UK labour market of old: the headline unemployment numbers are moving with the economy, not lagging far behind as they have in the past
Stephanie Flanders
BBC's economics editor

However, the number of people in work actually fell in the quarter, by 54,000 to 28.86 million.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that unemployment and employment were both falling because of a rising number of people being classed as economically inactive.

This category includes students and those on long-term sick leave, as well as those who have stopped looking for a job.

Meanwhile Jeegar Kakkad, senior economist at EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, said: "Although the figures show that job losses in manufacturing are at their lowest since the recession began, the fall in employment increases the likelihood of a jobless recovery."


"One word sums up the latest official jobs figures: confusing," said Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

"Unemployment is sharply down, however you measure it. Yet there also 54,000 fewer people in work, with full-time jobs particularly hard hit.

"The apparent paradox is explained by a very sharp rise of 149,000 in the number of economically inactive people, with the number of students surging by 98,000. Jobless young people are thus turning to study in their thousands to avoid the dole."

While unemployment for the UK as a whole fell, there were some big national and regional differences.

Scotland experienced the biggest rise in unemployment during the quarter, up by 16,000, and London recorded the biggest fall, down 20,000.

In Wales, the number of people out of work increased by 9,000, while in Northern Ireland there was a drop of 2,000.

Party reactions

Reacting to the figures, Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper said: "The fall in unemployment for the third month in a row is very welcome, but we should remain cautious.

"We're not out of the woods yet and we are still determined to do more to support jobs and help the unemployed this year.


Scotland: Up 16,000 to 205,000
Wales: Up 9000 to 133,000
North West: Up 3,000 to 290,000
North East: Up 1,000 to 120,000
East Midlands: Up 1,000 to 173,000
East: Up 1,000 to 196,000
Northern Ireland: Down 2,000 to 52,000
South East: Down 5,000 to 274,000
Yorks/Humber: Down 7,000 to 230,000
South West: Down 12,000 to 164,000
West Midlands: Down 17,000 to 254,000
London: Down 20,000 to 359,000
Source: ONS

"However, now is not the time to cut back on support for jobs. We know things will be difficult for some time, and unemployment in the 80s and 90s rose for years after the recessions finished.

"That is why we plan to increase help to get people back into jobs this year, not cut it back, so we can support the jobs of the future."

Conservative shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May said the figures were encouraging, but that she was concerned about the lack of new jobs.

"Obviously it's very... it's welcome news that unemployment figures are going down," she said.

"But of course we mustn't lose sight of the fact that there are still getting on for two-and-a-half million people unemployed and one in five young people can't find a job.

"So we've still got... welcome news that unemployment is going down but we've still got a long way to go to get out of the damage that's been done by Labour's recession."

Meanwhile, Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesman, said: "These figures are only part of the story, we would rather these figures go down rather than up.

"But the number of [economically inactive] people who have just given up, that is a real concern."

He added: "The priority for an incoming government is to create new jobs, worthwhile jobs, not training the unemployed for jobs that don't exist."

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Times Online Unemployment total rises by 16,000 in Scotland - 3 hrs ago
The Sun 1 in 4 dont do any paid work - 9 hrs ago
The Economist Costly benefits? - 12 hrs ago U.K. Claimant Count Logs Biggest Fall Since 1997 - 20 hrs ago
Sky News Non-Workers Help Jobless Rate Fall - 22 hrs ago

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