Unemployment reaches highest level for 17 years

The latest UK employment data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reinforces gloom in the labour market, with unemployment reaching its highest level for 17 years.

According to the latest labour market statistics, published today by the ONS, unemployment rose by 114,000 to reach 2.57 million – 8.1% of the population.

Meanwhile, although youth unemployment failed to reach the one million mark as some had predicted, the ONS data recorded a record level of youth unemployment at 991,000. This is a rise of 74,000 on the previous year, and is the highest figure recorded since records began in 1992.

Today’s findings put further pressure on the Government to stimulate growth in the jobs market.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Given the worsening global economic situation and the Government’s tough austerity plan, the latest labour market figures are not surprising. The figures are concerning, and reinforce the need for the Government to boost the private sector’s ability to create jobs, and employ those people likely to lose their jobs in the public sector over the coming year.

“The BCC’s September forecast predicted that total unemployment would rise to 2.62 million by the end of 2012. However, on this basis of these figures, there is a risk that the jobless total will be even higher next year.”

Ian Brinkley, centre director at The Work Foundation, said: “The labour market figures released this morning are very troubling. The fall in employment of 180,000 in a single quarter is comparable to the quarterly losses seen during the depths of the last recession.

“Unemployment among young people between the ages of 18 and 24 is increasing twice as fast as for the workforce as a whole and there has been a dramatic increase in long-term youth unemployment.

“The main mitigating factor in today’s figures is that total hours worked has remained stable, with most of the job losses being part-time. People still in work seem to be increasing their hours at the same time as the workforce contracts.”

Read XpertHR’s Employment Intelligence blog post on today’s statistics.

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