Unemployment hits seven-year high at 1.71 million

UK unemployment is at its highest level in seven years, reaching 1.71 million in the three months to September, official figures  have shown.

The jobless rate rose to 5.6%, up from 5.5% in the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.

The number of people out of work and claiming Jobseekers Allowance rose by 1,200 in October to 961,300. Average earnings grew by 3.9% in the year to September, down from 4.2% in the previous month.

The number of people working in manufacturing fell by 77,000 over the year to about three million – the lowest level since records began in 1841.

Ian Brinkley, economist at The Work Foundation think tank, said the labour market outlook remained fairly positive. “Unemployment still edged up, but the increase was much smaller than in previous quarters.

“In addition, wage growth remains moderate and non-inflationary – reassuring news for the Bank of England and a further argument for holding interest rates at their current level.”

The figures suggested older workers are doing much better than those in younger age groups. Employees at or over the state retirement age account for most of the increase in employment over the past quarter.

A mixture of underlying factors may be at work, according to Brinkley. Concerns about pensions, changing attitudes of employers, shortages of skilled and experienced labour in some regions and industries, and more people wanting to carry on working in part-time jobs beyond normal retirement age are all playing a part, he said.

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