U-turn urged as jobless total rises

RECORD levels of youth unemployment have led to fresh calls for the Government to re-think its decision to scrap a job-creation scheme.

One in five 16 to 24-year-olds are out of work after an increase of 32,000 in the quarter to November to 951,000, the highest figure since records began in 1992.

The gloomy figures sparked anger from union leaders and Opposition politicians, while business leaders also described them as "disappointing". Employment Minister Chris Grayling warned of a "long road ahead" which would see ups and downs.

Prime Minister David Cameron admitted that rising unemployment was a "huge concern" as the overall jobless total increased to 2.5 million in the three months to November.

Labour stepped up its calls for the Future Jobs Fund – which created six-month jobs mainly for young unemployed people but is being axed in March – to be reinstated. More than 600 posts in Yorkshire were due to be created when the plug was pulled, with Ministers saying it cost too much.

Nationally, employment levels have fallen, redundancies have increased and the number of people classed as economically inactive has reached 9.3 million, although there was a 4,100 fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance last month to 1.46 million.

Thousands more council jobs were earmarked for the axe because of Government spending cuts, taking the total to over 125,000, according to the GMB union, although Ministers hope to create more private sector jobs.

In Yorkshire and the Humber the jobless total actually fell slightly, down by 6,000 compared with the previous quarter to 241,000. But the number of people in employment also fell, by 24,000 to 2,377,000.

During exchanges in the House of Commons yesterday Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the Prime Minister of "complacency", saying: "The truth is you are cutting too far and too fast and it is British people who are paying the price."

Mr Cameron replied: "Every increase in unemployment is a matter for huge concern and that is why we are launching the biggest back-to-work programme that this country has ever seen in the Work Programme.

"What I would say about the figures today, of course there were some very disappointing figures, particularly on youth unemployment ... but there are some mixed pictures because the claimant count has gone down for the third month in a row, the number of vacancies is up and also the average of independent forecasters published today see growth revised upwards."

Martina Milburn, chief executive of youth charity The Prince's Trust, said: "Britain is now perilously close to seeing one million young people struggling to find work. At this time when there is huge pressure on the public purse, Government, charities and employers must work together to help young people into jobs and save the state billions."

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "These figures are disappointing and once again slightly worse than expected."

Mr Grayling said the figures underlined the scale of the challenge facing the Government but insisted economic stability would allow more private sector jobs to be created.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander said: "The Government still doesn't seem to understand that a longer dole queue means a higher welfare bill. Continuing high unemployment across the country – including worrying figures for women and young people – is a real concern a year into the recovery."