Jobless figure hits four-year peak

The number of people out of work has reached its highest level since September 2002, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Unemployment is up by 77,000 to 1.61 million, marking a rise of 199,000 over the past 12 months.

The number of people receiving Jobseekers’ Allowance was also up, with 950,900 claiming the benefit in May 2006, up 5,800 this month and 97,000 on the year. May was the 14th consecutive month that the number of people receiving benefits has risen.

Employment in the manufacturing sector is at its lowest level since records began in 1978: 116,000 jobs were lost in the quarter compared to the same period a year ago, bringing the total number of jobs in the sector to 3.05 million.

Despite the rise in people classed as out of work, the number of people in employment is the highest on record.

The employment rate is 74.7%, with 28.94 million people in work in February to April this year. Employment is up 130,000 on the quarter and by 272,000 over the year.

Jim Murphy, minister for employment and welfare reform, said: “The UK continues to lead the way in reforming the welfare state, particularly through policies that help those claiming lone parent and incapacity benefits back into work,” he said.

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