Warning of rising joblessness in UK

The Government has warned that further rises in unemployment were expected before the summer as figures showed those claiming jobseeker’s allowance soared to the highest level since Labour came to power in 1997.

The number of people claiming rose by 23,500 last month to reach 1.64 million.

Long-term unemployment, covering those out of work for more than a year, increased by 37,000 in the quarter to December to 663,000, also the highest figure since 1997.

The number of people classed as economically inactive also reached a record high of 8.08 million – more than 21% of the working age population.

Union leaders said the figures showed the recession was far from over, while a business group said it was a “feel bad” recovery, warning that the economy may experience a double-dip back into recession in the first half of 2010.

The Prime Minister said measures being taken by the Government would steer the UK clear of the recession.

He also said a conference will be held on Monday involving 300 investors from all over the world to talk about the “great opportunities” to invest in this country.

Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed a 3,000 fall in total unemployment to 2.46 million, but warned: “We know things are going to be tough for a while and we expect further increases in unemployment before the summer. That’s why it’s so important to increase help for people now, not cut it back.”

Other data from the Office for National Statistics showed the number of people in employment fell by 12,000 to just under 29 million. There was a drop of 37,000 in full-time employment, offset by a 25,000 increase in part-time employment.

Unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds fell by 13,000 in the last three months of 2009 to 725,000, while for 16 to 24-year-olds the total dropped by 13,000 to 923,000. There was an 18,000 rise in the number of unemployed women to 959,000, the biggest quarterly jump since last summer.

Source: Press Association

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