Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

Jobless total will rise - McNulty

Tony McNulty
Mr McNulty said he expected unemployment figures to get worse

Employment Minister Tony McNulty has said unemployment figures have "a ways to go before we reach the bottom".

Speaking to the BBC before monthly labour market figures on Wednesday, Mr McNulty predicted they would "still be going in the wrong direction".

Figures suggest the unemployment total rose by 137,000 to 1.86 million, in the three months to October.

Since then, Grattan, Barclays, South West Trains, JCB and Jaguar are among firms to have announced job cuts.

In an interview with BBC One's Politics Show, Mr McNulty was asked if the jobless figures could reach 3m in 2009.

He said he was "not in the game of making predictions", but added: "One thing I will say clearly... have we reached the bottom of this? No we haven't.

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

Jobs 'summit'

Asked if it was near the bottom, he said: "I don't think it is at the moment... I think it's got a ways to go before we reach the bottom."

At a "jobs summit" last week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised to help 500,000 people into work or training - by offering employers 2,500 for every person they trained who had been unemployed for more than six months.

He pledged that communities would not be "written off" adding: "We cannot always prevent people losing their jobs but we can help people finding their next jobs."

The Conservatives, who called in November for people made redundant to be able to re-train straight away while claiming benefits, welcomed the announcement.

But they said the government's policies on dealing with the downturn were not working and called for more schemes to help businesses and protect jobs.

The Lib Dems said six months was too long to wait and accused Mr Brown of extending "existing programmes which have so far failed".

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