Unemployment hits 2.67 million

Worst unemployment figures since 1995 as squeeze on pay continues.

Unemployment in the UK has risen by a further 48,000 in the three months leading up to December, with official figures now showing that 2.67 million people are unemployed in Britain. This represents 8.4 per cent of the population, the worst rate of unemployment since 1995.

Data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that claimants of Jobseekers Allowance increased to 1.6 million in January, a rise of 6,900. This is the eleventh consecutive month this figure has risen, with the number of women on Jobseekers now standing at 531,700, the highest since 1995.

The number of young people unemployed has also risen. 22.2 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are now without a job, an increase of 22,000 to 1.04 million.

Although unemployment was up, the employment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points for the three months to December. The number of people who found paid employment increased during the quarter to 29,130,000, up 60,000. This figure is 0.2 percentage points lower than at the same stage a year earlier.

Employment figures increased by 60,000 and now stands at 29.8 million. This has been attributed to the surge in part-time employment which increased by 83,000 over the last quarter, hitting a record high of 1.35 million.

The reason for the inconsistency between the employment and unemployment figures is down to a drop in the number of people considered economically inactive. The number of people classified as sick and unavailable to work fell, with some who were previously categorised as retired also returning to employment.

The squeeze on spending power showed no signs of subsiding with average earnings 2 per cent on the year earlier, unchanged on the three months to November 2011. However, with the rate of inflation at 3.6 per cent, spending power continues to be squeezed.

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