UK unemployment rises by 70,000

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The number of unemployed people in the UK rose by 70,000 in the quarter from December to February, according to the latest labour market data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This means that 2.56 million people were out of work in that quarter, equating to 7.9% of the working population. However, while there was a quarter-on-quarter rise in unemployment, the figures represented a fall of 71,000 on the previous year.

The data also highlighted that 900,000 people have been out of work for more than one year, an increase of 8,000 on the previous quarter, while the number of unemployed 16-to 24-year-olds rose by 20,000 to 979,000.

The ONS also found that total pay rose by 0.8% compared with December 2011 to February 2012, the lowest growth rate since September to November 2009. Regular pay rose by 1% over the same period, the lowest growth rate since records began in 2001.

Commenting on today’s labour market statistics, Ian Brinkley, director of The Work Foundation, said: “As we predicted, economic reality has caught up with the labour market. The jobs recovery of 2012 appears to have stalled.

“Comparing the three months to February with the previous three months shows that our economy has stopped creating new jobs, unemployment is increasing and wage growth has stalled. The increase in youth unemployment is of particular concern and disappointing given the coalition has made tackling youth unemployment such a high priority.”

Mark Beatson, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), commented: “The question is whether this is a short term blip or whether a lack of demand means that the economy will struggle to create more jobs.

“Recent forward-looking indicators of recruitment intentions, including the CIPD’s Labour Market Outlook, remain positive. Nor have we seen any significant change in the number of redundancies. Hence, at this stage, it would be unwise to read too much into a single month’s figures. Nevertheless, the statistics do remind us that jobs cannot be created forever without a growing economy to sustain demand.

“And it is certainly not a question of people pricing themselves out of jobs, as wages excluding bonuses are now growing by just 1% a year, the lowest figure since this data started to be collected in 2001.”

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills at the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The rise in unemployment is disappointing and reflects a lacklustre economy over recent months.

“However, the increase in the headline rate is due to more people looking for work, who weren’t previously doing so, rather than simple job losses. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits is still falling.

“The flat employment growth is down to a fall in part-time jobs. Full-time posts increased again this month, continuing the positive trend of recent months.”

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