UK employment rises in first quarter of 2008 amid recession fears

The number of people in employment for the three months to April increased by 76,000 to 29.55 million, according to figures released today by the Office for National Statistics.

The working-age employment rate for this period was 74.9% – unchanged from the previous quarter, but up 0.5 percentage points on the previous year.

However, unemployment increased by 38,000 to 1.64 million over the same period. This brings the unemployment rate to 5.3%, up 0.1 percentage point from the previous quarter.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit rose by 9,000 in May to 819,300 – the fourth consecutive increase.

Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “Fears that the current economic instability could cause a downturn in the labour market are now beginning to be realised. As anticipated, last month’s increase in the number of unemployed was not a one-off.

“Our discussions with employers suggest that many corporate HR departments are alert to the situation, but are waiting to see how deep and broad the downturn is likely to be before taking any action.”

For more employment statistics, see our Yardstick Indicators.

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