UK unemployment soars to 2.43 million

Unemployment has soared to 2.43 million in the three months to June, an increase of 220,000, and up 750,000 on the year, official figures have shown.

The unemployment rate was 7.8%, up 0.7 percentage points from the previous three months, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed.

In July, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits also increased by 24,900, to 1.58 million – 4.9% of the workforce, up 0.1% from the previous month.

The figures continue to show a discrepancy between the number of people claiming benefits and the number of people unemployed, which has prompted an official government inquiry, announced yesterday.

The number of 18- to 24-year-olds out of work reached 722,000 in the three months to June 2009, up 46,000 from the three months to March 2009 – although this is 4,000 less than the total figure published in the three months to May 2009.

Meanwhile, the CIPD/KPMG Labour Market Outlook, out on Monday, showed that almost one in 10 employers intended to recruit migrant workers in the third quarter of 2009, despite the unemployment figures for UK nationals continuing to fall.

The ONS data found the number of UK-born people in employment was 25.1 million in the three months to June 2009, down 625,000 on the year. The number of employed people not born in the UK was 3.73 million, up 22,000 on the year.

More than one-quarter of employers taking part in the CIPD/KPMG survey said that they recruited migrant workers to fill jobs because they could not find UK workers to do the job.

Three in 10 private sector firms (32%) turn to migrants because they find it difficult to fill vacancies with UK workers. More than two-thirds of employers in the hotels, catering and leisure sector and more than half of employers in transport and communications, both of whom will see staffing levels decrease in the coming months, say they have difficulty finding UK nationals to fill the role.

Forty-three per cent of NHS employers and 28% of education bodies give the same reason for recruiting migrant workers.

Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: “The idea that migrant workers comprise a marginal segment of the UK workforce that is dispensed with when times are tough is clearly wide of the mark.

“Migrant workers will continue to be relatively attractive to UK employers – even in a recession when many UK-born people are jobless. The best way to provide ‘British jobs for British workers’ is to make Brits better equipped to compete in the jobs market rather than raise barriers to skilled migrants.”

Dave Conder, head of HR at KPMG, added: “As well as recruiting the best UK and European talent, employers do need the flexibility to be able to recruit from outside the European Economic Area to fill skills gaps in the workforce.”

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