Unemployment rate hits 16-year high - but Yorkshire figure falls

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The UK’s unemployment rate increased to a 16-year high today after another rise in the jobless total.

Unemployment jumped by 48,000 in the quarter to December to 2.67 million, a jobless rate of 8.4%, the worst figure since the end of 1995.

But joblessness in Yorkshire and Humber fell by 10,000 in the same period.

The Office for National Statistics said that a total of 264,000 people were unemployed in the region between October and December.

The region’s unemployment rate was 9.9% and saw a fall of 3.6% during the period. The worst in the UK was the North West which saw the biggest increase in people out of work at 9.3% followed by London at 10.0%.

Across the country the unemployment rate increased to a 16-year high after another rise in the jobless total.

Unemployment jumped by 48,000 in the quarter to December to 2.67 million, a jobless rate of 8.4%, the worst figure since the end of 1995.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 6,900 in January to 1.6 million, the 11th consecutive monthly increase.

The number of women claiming the allowance increased by 1,500 last month to 531,700, the highest figure since the summer of 1995.

A record number of people are working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs - up by 83,000 over the latest quarter to 1.35 million.

Employment increased by 60,000 to 29 million, mainly due to a rise of 90,000 in the number of part-time employees to 6.6 million.

Other data from the ONS showed a 22,000 increase in youth unemployment to 1.04 million, which includes 307,000 in full-time education who were looking for work.

The number of unemployed women is at its highest for 23 years, including one in four who have been out of work for over a year, according to an analysis of today’s figures by the IPPR think-tank.

Two thirds of last quarter’s increase in unemployment involved women, showing they were “bearing the brunt” of the recession.

Associate director Graeme Cooke said: “The Government should guarantee everyone who has been unemployed for more than a year a job at the minimum wage in local government or the voluntary sector. But with that right should come the responsibility to take that job or risk losing their benefits.”

John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The increase in unemployment is clearly disappointing. While the drop in youth unemployment is welcome, the jobs market is likely to be challenging for the remainder of the year - our figures show that small firms are actually looking to shed staff. The Government has announced some good initiatives to tackle unemployment but we now need to see these put into action.”

Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: “The latest headline jobs data are considerably better than expected but closer analysis indicates that the UK labour market was in the doldrums at the end of 2011, neither contracting dramatically nor mounting anything approaching a decent recovery.

“As the CIPD has noted in recent months, the UK jobs market is experiencing a slow, painful contraction that will see unemployment crawl toward close to three million by the end of 2012, rather than a sudden surge of joblessness.”