Unemployment hits 2.2 million – a 30-year high

Unemployment has risen to 2.2m over the past quarter, the highest in almost three decades, figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have shown.

Figures out today revealed the total jobless in the UK increased by 244,000 between January and March 2009. The unemployment rate rose to 7.1%, up from 6.7% over the three months to February 2009.

These are the highest levels since 1981, the ONS said.

The news comes just hours after the Monster Employment Index revealed the number of online HR job vacancies has dropped to the second lowest level in more than a year, despite signs that the recession may be slowing.

Redundancies also hit a 15-year high, according to the ONS, with UK firms having made 286,000 redundancies over the three months to March, up 27,000 on the final quarter of 2008.

Average earnings including bonuses fell by 0.4% over the period, as did job vacancies, which dropped by 51,000 to 455,000. Finance and business services took the biggest hit, down by 17,000 jobs, but all sectors showed a decline.

Unemployment levels passed two million in January for the first time since 1997. Experts have predicted the total number of people out of work could hit more than three million by next year.

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