Jobless total increases to 2.5m in first rise for a year


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The Independent Online

Unemployment has increased for the first time in a year, delivering a pre-Budget blow to the Government.

The jobless total jumped by 7,000 to 2.52 million, ending a run of reductions, with all the increase caused by more 18 to 24-year-olds becoming unemployed.

The total is still 152,000 lower than a year ago, while the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance fell in February by 1,500 to 1.54 million, the fourth consecutive monthly reduction.

There were 993,000 jobless 16 to 24-year-olds in the latest quarter to January, up by 48,000 from the three months to October, but the rise among 18 to 24-year-olds was 53,000.

The number of unemployed women increased by 5,000, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics showed.

Other figures revealed that public sector employment fell for the 13th consecutive quarter, by 20,000 to 5.7 million, the lowest for over a decade.

Local government employment fell by 32,000 and civil service jobs by 4,000, but the figure increased by 11,000 in central government.

Employment in private companies increased by 151,000 to 24 million.

The number of people out of work for between six and 12 months increased by 5,000 to 447,000, but fell by 16,000 for those unemployed for over a year to 887,000.

There were 29.7 million people in work, up by 590,000 on a year ago.

There were 8.9 million people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a relative or who had given up looking for a job, a fall of 118,000.

Total pay rose by 1.2 per cent in the year to January, down by 0.1 per cent on the previous month and less than half the rate of inflation.

The unemployment rate remained at 7.8 per cent, compared with 8.3 per cent a year ago.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: "It's a credit to businesses that the private sector is employing one and a quarter million more people than when this Government took office, helping us compete in the global race.

"Today's figures show that, against a difficult economic backdrop, we're helping people to move off benefits and into work.

"There are still tough challenges ahead which is why we're working hard to give jobseekers all the help and support they need to realise their aspiration of finding a job."

The Government said today's figures showed there were more people working in the private sector than at any time since records began, after a 700,000 increase over the last year.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said: "This time five years ago there were one million fewer unemployed people in the UK. The Government has failed every single one of these people - and it has failed our country.

"Every redundancy is a personal tragedy and brings with it hardship for the whole family, and the story behind each job lost in the public sector is one of libraries closing, day care centres shutting, fewer nurses on the wards or young people losing vital careers advice and help.

"Instead of the bedroom tax or cutting child benefit, the Government could dramatically reduce the welfare bill by getting people back to work. It must start by stemming the tide of public sector job losses that are so damaging to our country."

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "That there is still mass unemployment, in the sixth year of recession, shows that the Government is following the wrong economic policy.

"The political stagnation in the Coalition is such that, while the OBR said that public spending cuts would deflate GDP by 2.7%, no-one seriously expects a U-turn in today's Budget.

"Vince Cable huffs and puffs but that is about it. The young people are the ones paying the highest price for this madness."

Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince's Trust charity, said: "Youth unemployment is now back on the rise, and urgent action is needed before thousands more young people find themselves out of work.

"With help from the Government and employers, we now plan to increase our support to give hope to struggling young people across the UK."