UNEMPLOYMENT has fallen by the largest amount in more than a decade as the Government insisted its economic plan for Britain is working.
Jobs figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed unemployment dropped by almost 100,000 across the UK in the three months to November.
Among a raft of good news were falls in long-term and youth unemployment, continuing cuts in the number of people claiming benefits, and the lowest rate of economic inactivity since 1991.
In Yorkshire, the picture was positive but less dramatic, with unemployment falling by 6,000 over the three months to a total of 239,000.
Speaking in the Commons, David Cameron said 1.2 million more people are now in work than when the coalition came to power. But he added: “There should not be one ounce of complacency, because we have still got work to do to get our country back to work.
“But the plan is working. Let’s stick at it, and get unemployment down even further.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband also welcomed the fall, but pointed to figures showing a record 1.47 million people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job.
“It’s good our economy is creating more jobs, but the problem is too many of them are part-time or low-paid or insecure,” the Doncaster North MP said.
The ONS said the jobless total fell by 99,000 in the quarter to November – the biggest drop in more than a decade – to 2.39 million, giving an overall rate of 7.4 per cent, the lowest for more than four years.
The figures means unemployment is now creeping down towards the seven per cent threshold at which the Bank of England said it will start to consider raising interest rates from their current low levels. However, inflation, which must also be taken into account under the Bank’s new approach, has dropped to a four-year low, easing any pressure for interest rates to be raised.
The Institute of Directors’ chief economist, Graeme Leach, said: “The Chancellor can enjoy his Christmas break after a week of rising employment and falling unemployment and inflation. The reduction in unemployment to 7.4 per cent will heighten speculation about tighter monetary policy – but this is likely to be a triumph of hype over reality.”
The number of people in work now stands at more than 30 million, an increase of 250,000 over the past three months and of almost half a million compared with a year ago. Private sector employment reached a record high of 24.4 million.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “These figures send out a clear message that we have built the foundations for healthy UK growth and a stronger economy.”
Other data from the ONS showed the number of people classed as “economically inactive” is now at its lowest level since 1991, while the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell by 36,700 in November to 1.27 million, the 13th consecutive monthly cut.
However, unions warned of a “gender divide” in Yorkshire, with more women out of work than at this time last year.
Yorkshire TUC regional secretary Bill Adams said: “Women in our region continue to pay a high price for the decisions of this Government.
“While the overall fall in unemployment in our region is to be welcomed, women workers in Yorkshire continue to be hit hard with 7,000 more out of work than a year ago.
“Given that two thirds of public sector workers are women, and with George Osborne announcing more savage cuts, the coalition’s policies will continue to hit women hard.”