Claimants down - young jobless up

The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance has fallen to its lowest level for more than four years and employment has reached a record high, but long-term and youth unemployment have increased, new figures showed today.

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The so-called claimant count fell by 29,200 in July - the ninth consecutive monthly drop - to 1.4 million, the lowest since February 2009.

Total unemployment, including those not eligible for benefit, fell by 4,000 in the quarter to June to 2.5 million.

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But youth unemployment, among 16 to 24-year-olds, increased by 15,000 to reach 973,000, while the number of people out of work for more than two years rose by 10,000 to 474,000, the highest since 1997.

Other figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that average weekly earnings, including bonuses, increased by 2.1% in the year to June, up by 0.3% on the previous month.

It is the first time the rate has gone over 2% since 2011, but ONS said it reflected unusually high bonus payments in April.

The number of people in work increased by 69,000 in the quarter to June to 29.78 million, the highest since records began in 1971.

The figure is 301,000 higher than a year ago, giving a rate of 71.5%.

The unemployment rate has remained at 7.8%, as opposed to the 7% figure given by new Bank of England governor Mark Carney as a possible trigger for changes in interest rates.

Meanwhile, the number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a sick relative or who have given up seeking work, fell by 10,000 in the latest quarter to just under nine million, a rate of 22%.

ONS said the number of people aged 16 to 64 in employment has almost recovered to what it was at the start of the recession five years ago, but the employment rate has not recovered as much because of a 673,000 increase in the population of this age group.

The employment rate for men is unchanged at 76% but has increased by 0.1% to 66.7% among women.

Self-employment has jumped by 6,000 to 4.1 million and unpaid family workers have risen by 6,000 to 111,000.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said: “Today’s figures show a record high employment level, with more women in work than ever before.

“This growth has been driven by a rise in permanent, private sector jobs, which suggests businesses are feeling positive about the future.”

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “With 29,000 fewer people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance compared to this time last month, and more people in work than ever before, today’s figures paint a positive picture of the UK labour market.

“There are now more jobs available than at any time since the end of 2008, and more hours being worked than ever before - which shows that there are opportunities out there for people who want to work and get on in life.”

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said: “Today’s small drop in unemployment rates masks the damaging growth of under-employment plaguing the country and stifling economic recovery.

“A toxic combination of part-time, minimum wage, zero-hours working is spreading across the country, as decently paid, full-time opportunities become increasingly rare.

“We know that just a few months ago there were, on average, almost four people chasing every vacant job in England, Scotland and Wales. For young people desperate to get their first job, these are desperate times. Getting the work experience they need to get a start in life is hard to find.”

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “That we have mass unemployment of two and a half million five years into this recession is waste on a grand scale.

“To this must be added the millions in enforced temporary and part-time jobs and those massively underemployed.”

Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “Rising youth joblessness crushes young ambitions. Our research shows that many young people are expecting nothing but a life on benefits.

“We cannot let a whole generation of young people give up hope for the future.