UK unemployment hits new high

Unemployment in the UK rose by
27,000 to 2.53 million in the three months to January, the highest level for 17
years, while joblessness among young people also hit a new high.

The increase took the unemployment
rate to 8 per cent of the workforce, the highest since last spring, up from 7.9
per cent in the previous quarter.

However, in a mixed picture, the
number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance, the main unemployment benefit,
fell sharply in February and there was a rise in overall employment.

The data indicate that the labour
market remains delicately poised as public sector job losses and the squeeze on
household incomes start to bite.

John Philpott of the Chartered Institute
for Personnel and Development said the figures contained something both for
optimists and pessimists.

Public sector employment fell by
45,000 in the final quarter of last year to 6.2 million, with local government
accounting for more than half the drop, according to the Office for National

But private sector employment rose
by 77,000 over the quarter to almost 23 million.

The UK’s 8 per cent unemployment
rate compares with 9.9 per cent in the eurozone and 8.9 per cent in the US.

The number claiming jobseeker’s
allowance fell by 10,200 to 1.45 million in February, the lowest level since
February 2009.

Employment rose by 32,000 to 29.12
million in the three months to January, up by 296,000 on a year ago.

Unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds
rose by 30,000 to 974,000, a rate of 20.6 per cent of those economically active
in that age group, the highest since comparable records began in 1992.

The highest unemployment
rate was 10.2 per cent in north-east England, up 0.5 percentage points in the
quarter, followed by the West Midlands at 9.9 per cent, up 1.1 points. The
lowest rate was in eastern England at 6.2 per cent, down 0.6 points.