Unemployment rises slightly in the run-up to the budget

Youth unemployment rises rapidly.

Unemployment has risen by 7,000 people in the three months to January, leaving the rate unchanged at 7.8 per cent, according to the ONS:

The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for November 2012 to January 2013 was 71.5%, up 0.3 percentage points from August to October 2012. There were 29.73 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 131,000 from August to October 2012.

The unemployment rate for November 2012 to January 2013 was 7.8% of the economically active population, unchanged from August to October 2012. There were 2.52 million unemployed people, up 7,000 from August to October 2012.

The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for November 2012 to January 2013 was 22.3%, down 0.3 percentage points from August to October 2012. There were 8.95 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, down 118,000 from August to October 2012.

Between November 2011 to January 2012 and November 2012 to January 2013 total pay and regular pay rose by 1.2%. However as inflation measured by the Consumer Prices Index was 2.7% between January 2012 and January 2013, there continues to be a cut in the real value of pay.

The biggest news in the headline statistics is the continued weakness in regular pay, growth of which is down by 0.1 percentage point on the previous three months. Real pay is therefore declining even more rapidly than it was before.

In below-the-line figures, youth unemployment rose by 48,000, or 0.9 percentage points, almost reversing the gains made in the prior quarter:


Pulling the rabbit from the hat. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while a free would be held, party policy would be changed to oppose military action - an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. In advance of the meeting, Labour released a poll of members (based on an "initial sample" of 1,900) showing that 75 per cent opposed intervention. 

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, those present made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn ally Diane Abbott argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory" approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when MPs meet, with Corbyn opening and Benn closing. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet (I'm told that my account of that meeting was also raised). There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update on their phones from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

In a statement released following the meeting, a Corbyn spokesperson confirmed that a free vote would be held but made no reference to party policy: 

"Today's Shadow Cabinet agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn's recommendation of a free vote on the Government's proposal to authorise UK bombing in Syria.   

"The Shadow Cabinet decided to support the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two day debate in the House of Commons on such a crucial national decision.  

"Shadow Cabinet members agreed to call David Cameron to account on the unanswered questions raised by his case for bombing: including how it would accelerate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war; what ground troops would take territory evacuated by ISIS; military co-ordination and strategy; the refugee crisis and the imperative to cut-off of supplies to ISIS."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.