Jobless total falls to seven-year low

UNEMPLOYMENT has fallen by more than 100,000 to its lowest level in over seven years while the number of people in work continues to break records.

Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The Government welcomed new figures showing a record 31.2 million people are in employment, 419,000 more than a year ago and up by 177,000 over the quarter to September.

In Yorkshire, the figure stands at 157,000 or 5.9% - 17,000 fewer than the previous quarter.

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The national jobless total was cut by 102,000 in the latest quarter to 1.75 million - 103,000 fewer than the previous three months and 210,000 down on a year ago.

The jobless trend

But the claimant count has increased for the third month in a row, up by 3,300 in October to 795,500, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Average earnings increased by 2.5% in the year to September, down by 0.3% on the previous month.

The employment rate has reached 73.7%, the highest since comparable records began in 1971.

The record rate for women (69%) is partly due to changes in the state pension age, resulting in fewer retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: “These figures continue the recent strengthening trend in the labour market, with a new record high in the employment rate and the unemployment rate still at its lowest level since spring 2008.”

Unite cautioned that the jobs recovery was being fuelled by self-employment and low-paid, insecure, part-time jobs.

General secretary Len McCluskey said: “While any fall in unemployment is welcome, scratch the surface and a different picture emerges.

“We are seeing a re-balancing of the economy away from decent secure jobs to a world where people are increasingly being employed in low-paid, insecure work, desperate for the security of a permanent job.

“The government’s long-term economic plan is nothing more than meaningless spin for the millions of workers trying to make ends meet as Chancellor George Osborne seeks to take the axe to tax credits.”

The number of job vacancies fell by 5,000 over the last quarter to 736,000 while self-employment has increased by 30,000 to 4.5 million.

The number of people working part-time wanting a full-time job has fallen by 30,000 to 1.2 million.

The number of non-UK nationals working in the country has increased from 986,000 in 1997 to 3.2 million now.

Non-UK nationals from the EU working in this country increased by 324,000 to 2.02 million over the past year while the figure for non-UK nationals from outside the EU was little changed at 1.2 million.

The UK’s unemployment rate has fallen by 0.3% to 5.3%, compared with an EU average of 9.3%. The highest rates are in Greece (25%) and Spain (21.6%) while the lowest is in Germany (4.5%).

Employment Minister Priti Patel said: “With two million more people in work since 2010, the unemployment rate at its lowest in seven years and the number of people on one of the main out-of-work benefits down by a million since 2010, it is clear that this Government is transforming lives for the better, and creating the higher wage, lower welfare society that British people want to see.”

The number of hours people worked on average fell by 0.2 a week to 31.9 in the quarter to September from the three months to June, with analysts saying this reflected the increase in part-time jobs.

Matt Whittaker, chief economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “It is encouraging to see employment rising again after a bumpy few months.

“But the slowdown in the pace of the UK’s pay recovery may signal that the rebound enjoyed during much of 2015 has eased.”

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “This is another strong set of labour market figures. The further fall in youth unemployment is good news but it is still almost three times the national average.

“While the UK economy remains solid, we can’t rest on our laurels when the international background is becoming more uncertain. British businesses need stability, supported by low interest rates for the medium term.”