UK unemployment hits 17-year high

Mar 16, 2011 12:00 AM

The number of unemployed in the UK has hit a 17-year high of more than 2.5 mm and pushed the unemployment rate to 8 %, official data showed.
The rate for the three months of November to January rose from the 7.9 % reported last month for the three months of October to December, inclusive. Britain reports its jobless figures on a constantly rolling three-month window.

Gains in the number of people working in the private sector were not enough to offset growth in the labour pool and public sector job cuts, causing the increase in the unemployment rate, the Office for National Statistics said.
The total number of workers actually rose by 32,000, better than the 27,000 increase that economists had been expecting. But it wasn't enough to keep pace with the labour force, which grew by 93,000.

The jobless rate among those aged 18 to 24 reached a record high of 18.3 %. The picture on the opposite end of the spectrum was little better, as the number of people aged 65 who are working rose by 56,000 in the three months to 900,000, the highest figure since the current data series began in 1992.
“The small increase in employment did not improve the unemployment picture because most of the increase reflected more people working past the state pension age,” said Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies.

Total pay was up 2.3 % on the year, well below the current inflation rate of 4 %.
Simon Hayes, analyst at Barclays Capital, forecasts ”a small but steady rise in the unemployment rate during the rest of the year”.

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