UK jobless rate hits highest level in four years

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The Independent Online

The number of people out of work in Britain has risen, pushing the unemployment rate to a four-year high. Measured by international standards, the number of unemployed rose to 1.59 million in the first three months of the year, up 44,000 over the quarter and 177,000 compared with a year ago.

That pushed the unemployment rate up to 5.2 per cent - the highest since November 2002 - from 5.1 per cent in the previous three months.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits also increased, by 7,700 to 945,500 in April, the highest level since June 2003. The rate remained at 3 per cent. The so-called claimant count is steadily approaching the 1 million mark after increasing in 13 of the past 14 months.

The long-suffering manufacturing sector was hit with further job losses of 117,000, taking employment down to 3.06 million, the lowest since records began in 1978. Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "With manufacturing being massacred it is, sadly, no surprise the unemployment figures are rising. The figures demonstrate we are dealing with a crisis."

However, overall employment is also rising: it climbed 127,000 between January and March compared with the previous three months. John Butler, at HSBC, said: "The reason for this apparent dichotomy is that individuals previously classified as inactive are now joining the labour market looking for jobs."