The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned that unemployment will continue to rise until the end of next year, despite signs that the economy will start to pick up.
It said there would be a delay between the economy starting to grow and unemployment falling, as employers wait to be sure of a recovery before seeking to expand again.
The TUC’s general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “Some now say that we have a recovery, but even if this is not a false dawn, as others fear, it will be years before the thousands of people who have lost their jobs or who will lose them in months to come will see anything to celebrate.
“That’s why tackling unemployment must remain the government’s number one priority. Speeding up the process of getting people back into work and into jobs with decent pay will not only benefit the two million people currently out of work, but will also give the economy the spending boost it needs.”
During the last recession, the TUC said, gross domestic product (GDP) began to grow again in the autumn of 1991 but it was another 18 months before unemployment started to fall.
During the 1990s recession, unemployment rose for 11 consecutive quarters and unemployment rates did not return to their pre-recession levels for seven years.
This recession has seen unemployment rise for five consecutive quarters so far. The TUC said this suggests the UK may only be half way through the rise in unemployment, and it could be some years before it falls to the level before the recession started.
Research conducted by the Financial Times has also shown that two thirds of the job cuts made in the four months since January have been in deprived areas, indicating this downturn is not the middle-class recession some expected.
The figures forpeople claiming the jobseeker’s allowance reveal that the 10% of districts with the highest deprivation accounted for 51,200 of the 344,000 new claimants – a 580% increase in the number of claimants in the same period last year.
The heaviest concentrations of deprivation are in the north – particularly the north-east – although London also has substantial levels.