Unemployment rises to 2.47 million

Unemployment has risen to 2.47 million in the three months to July, an increase of 210,000, and up 743,000 on the year, official figures have shown.

The unemployment rate was 7.9%, up 0.7 percentage points from the three months to April 2009, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

Youth unemployment has also continued to soar from the three months to July. The number of 16 to 24-year-olds now out of work reached 947,000 in the three months to July 2009, up 59,000 from the previous quarter.

The claimant count in August 2009 was 1.61 million, up 24,400 on the previous month. Long-term unemployment also rose, with the number of people unemployed for more than 12 months reaching 567,000 in the three months to July 2009, up 53,000 from the previous quarter.

Average earnings continued to show a divide across the public and private sectors. Public sector workers were offered a 3.6% rise excluding bonuses, down 0.1 percentage points, while private sector workers got a 1.8% rise, excluding bonuses – down 0.3 percentage points.

Unions warned the latest figures showed the UK was still in deep recession, despite talk of ‘green shoots’ and recovery.

Unite’s joint general secretary Derek Simpson said: “These latest figures show that the recession is far from over. [Prime minister] Gordon Brown has chartered a steady course through these troubled times, a break from Labour would shatter any fragile recovery. The government’s help for young people and new apprenticeships shows that Labour is committed to supporting jobs.”

Meanwhile, finance directors surveyed by Grant Thornton accountants called for tax breaks to help get people back to work. Nearly two-thirds (59%) of the 500 professionals asked said employers should get a year’s holiday from national insurance contributions when taking on the long-term unemployed.

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