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Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

McNulty: 'Not reached the bottom yet'

The Employment Minister, Tony McNulty, has admitted the jobless total has "aways to go before we reach the bottom".

The Tony McNulty and Michael Howard interview

With the latest unemployment figures showing 1.8 million people out of work, Tony McNulty went on to say that he expected the number of people out of work to continue to rise.

More data, which will be released on Wednesday 21 January, is expected to show this expected rise in the jobless total.

"One thing I will say clearly is, if you ask me, have we reached the bottom of this? No, we haven't," Mr McNulty said.

"Unemployment is a lagging indicator, so the figures that come out this Wednesday will be for last December and I do fear that they will still be going in the wrong direction," he said.

Asked if the UK was nearing the bottom, the Employment Minister said, "I don't think it is at the moment. We'll have to wait and see.

"We learn richly from every month's worth of data. At the moment, it's across all sectors, all geographic areas and all age ranges… the rate per month has gone up.

A Clarke return..?

Michael Howard

Also, ahead of speculation that the former Conservative Chancellor Ken Clarke is to return to the Shadow Cabinet, the former Conservative Leader, Michael Howard, told the programme that Mr Clarke "has a huge amount to contribute".

Reports suggest that there is growing unease amongst Conservative MPs as to the virtues of resurrecting Mr Clarke's front-bench career.

Mr Howard, who was Employment Minister during the last recession, said he had a lot of merits:

"I think Ken is a very, very talented politician. I've great admiration for him. I've worked with him for many years and he has a great record. He was the author of the golden economic legacy."

Asked if he could give just a yes or no answer to the question of Mr Clarke's return, he said: "I don't pick the Shadow Cabinet, but I think he's a very talented politician… with a great deal to contribute in the present economic climate.

"It's a matter for David whether he's brought back, but he would have a huge amount to contribute."


Also on the programme, Jon Sopel interviewed the American Ambassador, Robert Tuttle to assess the Bush years. You can read the interview transcript here...

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