The number of people in work has reached a record high after unexpectedly positive labour market figures revealed the biggest fall in unemployment for more than a decade.
Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed the jobless total fell by 82,000 in the three months to October to 2.51m – the biggest reduction of its kind since the spring of 2001.
Yorkshire saw the largest fall in unemployment of anywhere in the country – down 29,000 in the three months to July.
Nationwide, employment jumped by 40,000 to 29.6m, the highest figure since records began in 1971, and up by 500,000 on a year ago.
A delighted David Cameron told MPs: “Obviously there is no room for complacency – there are still far too many people who are long-term unemployed.
“But in these figures we can see 40,000 more people in work, vacancies are up, unemployment is down by 82,000, the claimant count is down. Over a million extra private sector jobs under this Government.”
The Government announced it was extending the Youth Contract wage incentive, which gives employers up to £2,275 if they take on an unemployed young person.
From next week it will be available for employers taking on any 18- to 24-year-old who has been claiming benefits for six months, three months earlier than at present.
Employment minister Mark Hoban said the figures were “clearly good news for Yorkshire” and praised firms who have defied the double-dip recession to take on new staff.
“It’s a credit to British businesses that they’re proving wrong those cynics who claimed the private sector wouldn’t be able to step up,” he said.
However, Labour said the fall in unemployment was not shared equally around the country, and insisted warning signs about the overall economic picture remain.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “Today’s news brought fresh evidence that we are absolutely not out of the woods. Unbelievably, unemployment actually rose across a third of England, job growth has slowed to the slowest pace we’ve seen since January and pay packets are taking an absolute hammering.
“And last month, prices rose at twice the rate of wages.”