Yorkshire suffers surge in number 
of jobless

Unemployment soared in Yorkshire by 23,000 people last month to push the number out of work in the region beyond a quarter of a million.

The surge was by far the highest rise in the country, with unemployment falling in other parts of the north of England and by 7,000 across the UK as a whole.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the huge rise in Yorkshire occurred because some 33,000 people had begun looking for work for the first time over the last three months – but that only 10,000 of them have so far found employment.

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Officials said the group could include students now looking for work, people being moved off long-term benefits, and those who had come back to the job market after early retirement.

But Labour MPs pounced on the figures as further proof that the Government’s austerity measures are damaging the regional economy.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Yet again these are extremely concerning unemployment statistics for Yorkshire. The gap between Yorkshire and areas like London and the South East is continuing to grow, while this Government looks on and does nothing.

“The double-dip recession is really hurting our region, and more than a quarter of a million people here are paying the price. Unemployment causes long-term damage as people lose skills and opportunities.”

Ministers said it was positive that more people are now looking for work in the region, however, and pointed to figures showing the total number of people in employment in Yorkshire has risen by 25,000 since this time last year.

Mark Hoban, the new Employment Minister following last week’s Government reshuffle, said: “It’s a recognition that people actually want to work; they want to get back into the labour market. The fact that we’ve seen 25,000 additional people working in Yorkshire over the course of the last year is a positive sign.

“What we’re seeing in Yorkshire even in this month is a reduction in the number of people on out-of-work benefits. So there is a move back into the labour market and that’s good.

“What we need to do is ensure we support people as they come back into the labour market through things like the Work Programme, which is focused on people who have been out of work for some time; through the Youth Contract which is about giving wage incentives to employers to take young people on and give them training and work experience.

“So there’s a range of interventions we are making to help people who want to look for work.”

The row over unemployment bubbled over in the House of Commons with a series of fiery exchanges between David Cameron and Ed Miliband.

The Prime Minister described the overall drop in unemployment as “encouraging” and highlighted the huge rise in private sector jobs since the Coalition came to power in 2010.

“Today’s unemployment figures show an extra one million net private sector jobs since the election, which is something that shows our economy is rebalancing,” he said. “Unemployment is down by 7,000 and employment is up by 236,000 over the quarter. I think this is significant because it is a real-time, live figure.”

But the Labour leader warned that the number of long-term unemployed is continuing to grow, and the huge number of young people out of work showed how Government policy is “not working”.

Samuel Tombs at Capital Economics said later that while the headline drop in unemployment was encouraging, the detail of the ONS report showed a “less impressive picture”.

He added that other recent employment surveys suggested many of those taken on for the Olympics “will struggle to find work now that the Games have finished”.

John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, also said the continued fall in unemployment was good news, but that for the economy to recover at a faster pace more people need to find full-time work.

He added: “Policies targeted at stimulating job creation, such as extending the National Insurance contributions holiday, are needed to give small firms the confidence to create full-time positions and take on staff.”