Jobless figure reaches worst level since 1995

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the catastrophic impact their failing plan is having, especially in regions like Yorkshire.”

Unemployment jumped by 48,000 in the quarter to December to 2.67 million, a jobless rate of 8.4 per cent. It is the worst figure since the end of 1995, although the smallest quarterly rise since last summer, the Office for National Statistics reported.

Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants rose by 6,900 in January to 1.6 million, the 11th consecutive monthly increase, while 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 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.

Economic inactivity, which includes students, long-term sick, people who have retired early or those who have given up looking for work, fell by 78,000 to 9.29 million. Around 164,000 workers were made redundant or took voluntary redundancy in the final quarter of last year, up by 17,000 from the three months to September.

John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The unemployment situation continues to be very worrying, especially for young people but it’s positive that jobs are being created in the private sector. This month’s data confirms the tentative signs we saw last month of a recovery in private sector hiring.”

Martina Milburn, chief executive of youth charity The Prince’s Trust, said: “Young people are facing the bleakest jobs market for decades, which is crushing self-esteem and derailing ambition.

“We need to act now to ensure an unemployed generation does not become an unemployable one.”