Number of women on dole highest in 15 years

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The Independent Online

The good cheer felt by the Treasury at yesterday's unemployment figures, which less bad than expected, will be tempered by the knowledge that some groups are being hit worse than others. The number of women claiming Jobseekers' Allowance is at its highest for 15 years.

Women have been particularly affected by unemployment as part-time posts, and jobs in the service and retail sectors, which have traditionally been held by women, have been among the first to be axed.

Changes to benefit rules have also seen women switching from income support to Jobseeker's Allowance over the past two months. If current trends continue, more women in the UK will be unemployed than men for the first time since records began, a woman's campaigning group has claimed.

According to a forthcoming report by the Fawcett Society and the Women's Budget Group, the situation for women will get worse with public sector job losses as they hold 65 per cent of positions in the sector.

They predict job cuts in the public sector could run into the hundreds of thousands.

"For the first time, after decades of steady progress, we will be turning the clock back on women's access to the jobs market," said Fawcett's chief executive, Anna Bird.