UK unemployment hits six-year high

The UK unemployment rate has hit a six-year high, according to figures released today.

Unemployment rose by 93,000 between May and July and by a total of 280,000 over the last year.

However, because of increasing number of people in the labour force, the total number of people in work remains at an all-time high.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics show employment is up by 220,000 in the last year to a total of 28.97 million.

The number of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance also fell by 3,900 on the month, to 950,100.

John Hutton, secretary of state for work and pensions, accepted that number of people who are now looking for work had risen again. However, he claimed this was due to helping more people who are on incapacity and lone parent benefits to start looking for work.

“We are breaking the cycle of benefit dependency,” Hutton said.

Meanwhile, Tony Blair has come under fire from opposition parties after he appeared to pre-empt the official announcement of the figures during his speech to the Trades Union Congress.

At the conference yesterday Blair said: “Tomorrow I think we will probably see – for the first time in some months – a fall again in unemployment, which is very, very welcome indeed”.

The Conservatives and Liberals said this was evidence that he was abusing his position.

A spokesman for the Office for National Statistics said: “We have seen reports that the prime minister made remarks about the unemployment figures in advance of their publication.”

“The national statistician is looking into the circumstances and has been in contact with the Cabinet secretary,” he said. “We will make a further statement shortly.”

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