Unemployment in the UK rose to almost 2.5 million in the final three months of 2010, with youth unemployment hitting a record high.
The figures, from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) quarterly labour market survey, put the UK unemployment rate at 7.9%, with youth unemployment at 20.5%. These figures mean that one 16- to 24-year-old in five is now out of work, after the total rose by 66,000 to 965,000.
The number of employees working in part-time roles fell by 62,000, with the ONS highlighting that this fall occurred entirely among women.
The figures have aroused concern among employment organisations.
Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “The latest figures suggest yet again that any recovery in the private sector is still too weak to offset the intensifying job loss in the public sector. Overall employment levels continued to fall, while unemployment was up again.
“The figures again show the challenges faced by some groups of jobseekers. Long-term unemployment continues to rise, with 833,000 now out of work for more than a year. The number of unemployed young people also rose again and has reached the highest figure since comparable data were collected. Young people have been severely affected by the continuing low level of vacancies and the difficulties they face in competing with more experienced jobseekers. The disappearance of government programmes to help young unemployed, and the removal of the education maintenance allowance will not have helped the situation. Being unemployed in their teens or twenties has an impact on young people’s entire working life, and policy-makers cannot afford to neglect this.”
Ian Brinkley, director of socio-economic programmes at The Work Foundation, said: “This mini-recession in the labour market as a whole is turning into a major crisis for young people. Young people’s employment will not recover significantly until employers start hiring them again in significant numbers and that depends on the overall state of the economy. But in the meantime, the Government needs to look again at levels of support for young people through temporary employment programmes and encouraging more apprenticeships and paid intern placements.
“The other major casualty of the contraction in the labour market has been women, almost certainly reflecting mounting job losses in the public sector and non-public providers of public services.”
Other data from the ONS showed that average earnings rose by 1.8% in the year to December 2010, slightly down on the 2.1% growth in the year to November.