Unemployment down - but number of dole claimants rises


A drop in the jobless rate was overshadowed by a rise in the number of long-term unemployed today, prompting unions to call on the Government for more action to kickstart a recovery in the labour market.

The jobless total dropped 51,000 to 2.61 million in the quarter to April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, but the number of people unemployed for more than a year increased by 85,000 to 886,000.

In addition, the number of people unemployed for more than two years rose 29,000 to 434,000, while the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance in May rose by 8,100 to 1.6 million, ending two months of declines.

Unison leader Dave Prentis said: "The figures shine a harsh light on the hard-core of the unemployment crisis in the UK - that of long-term unemployment.

"The number of people unemployed for more than two years continues to rise. We know that the longer someone is out of work, the more difficult it is to get back into it."

He added: "The reality is that many people are suffering as a result of stagnant growth and the brutal public sector cuts, and the Government needs to wake up to this and take action if we are to see any true signs of recovery."

However, the number of people in work saw its biggest increase since the quarter to August 2010 as the employment rate increased by 166,000 to almost 29.28 million - nearly equally split between full and part-time workers.

Almost eight million people are now in a part-time job, while those working part-time because they cannot find full-time work increased by 25,000 to 1.4 million.

Self-employment has reached a record figure of 4.17 million, up by 84,000 since the previous quarter.

Average earnings increased by 1.4% in the year to April, up by 0.5 percentage points on the previous month due to the timing of bonuses. Average weekly pay in private firms in April was £5 higher at £465 compared to a year ago.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "Any fall in unemployment is very welcome but I remain cautious over the next few months, given the continuing economic challenges we face."

The UK's unemployment rate has fallen by 0.2 percentage points to 8.2%, lower than the European average of 10.3%.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the EU at 24.3%, while Austria has the lowest at 3.9%.

Youth unemployment has also fallen, down by 29,000 over the latest quarter to 1.01 million.

There were 9.23 million economically-inactive people in the three months to April, a fall of 69,000, mainly due to a reduction in the number of students.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "We now need to turn today's positive news into a steady fall in unemployment. The Government must invest in jobs to get the economy growing again."

Earlier, the IPPR think tank published a report labelling long-term unemployment as the "hidden crisis" of the slow economic recovery.

The IPPR said that in such a tough labour market, it is inevitable that many of the people who have lost their jobs in the last 12 months will struggle to find new ones and will join the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

And a separate report by Policy Exchange found that people aged 50 or above who lose their jobs are more likely to remain out of work for longer periods of time than other age groups.

Liam Byrne, shadow work and pensions secretary, said the rising number of people on unemployment benefits was "costing Britain a fortune in money and wasted potential".

He added: "David Cameron and George Osborne promised change and to secure the recovery, but their failed policies have delivered a double-dip recession made in Downing Street."

Unemployment in the regions between February to April was:

Region Total unemployed Change on quarter Unemployment rate

North East 145,000 plus 8,000 11.3%

North West 325,000 plus 8,000 9.4%

Yorkshire/Humber 248,000 minus 13,000 9.3%

East Midlands 186,000 minus 1,000 8.0%

West Midlands 223,000 minus 18,000 8.4%

East 209,000 plus 2,000 6.8%

London 413,000 minus 20,000 9.7%

South East 288,000 plus 2,000 6.4%

South West 164,000 minus 5,000 6.1%

Wales 132,000 minus 2,000 9.0%

Scotland 220,000 minus 14,000 8.2%

N Ireland 60,000 plus 5,000 7.1%