Source: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), April 21 2010

The unemployment rate stands at 8.0% – up 0.1% over the quarter and the highest rate since September 1996. 28.82 million people were in work in the period December to February according to the labour force survey (LFS). The number of people employed was down by 89,000 this quarter and 406,000 from last year.

The working age employment rate is 72.1% – down by 0.3% on the last quarter and 1.6% on last year – and the lowest since October 1996.

ILO-defined unemployment in December to February was 2.50 million (8.0%) – up by 43,000 on the quarter and 369,000 from a year previously – the highest since December 1994.

The claimant count for key out-of-work benefits was 1.54 million in March – down by 32,900 on last month.

Earnings growth over the year to February (including bonuses) was 2.3%.

Commenting on the latest statistics, John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser at the CIPD, said:

“The last set of official labour market statistics before the General Election contains a mix of good and bad news. Since this provides all three main UK political parties with something to seize on, these pre-Election jobs figures are unlikely to prove a ‘game changer’ at the polls.

“Labour can highlight a welcome further fall of almost 33,000 in March in the number of people claiming JSA. They can also claim that the 2.5 million headline unemployment figure is around half a million lower than most forecasters had expected this time last year and is vindication of the government’s approach to supporting the economy through the recession and its intention to keep spending to stimulate the economy in 2010-11.

“But the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties can point to yet another quarterly fall, of 89,000, in the number of people in work, an increase to 1.046 million in the number of people working part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, and a quarterly 89,000 rise in the number of people unemployed for more than a year; taking the long-term jobless total to 726,000.

“Most significant of all, the latest rise in headline unemployment takes the overall jobless total to 2.5 million, 8% of the workforce. The situation would have looked worse had the number of economically active people – i.e. those outside the jobs market – not also increased by 110,000 in the latest quarter. Students account for the bulk of the increase in the number of economically inactive, indicating the extent to which young jobless people have been turning to study to avoid the dole. Without a 71,000 quarterly rise in student numbers, youth unemployment (16-24 year olds) would have reached exactly 1 million, further fuelling fear of ‘a lost generation’.

“Even if the overall or youth jobless figures don’t prove a vote clinching issue, come polling day, whoever is responsible for economic and employment policy in the next few years will struggle to combine the task of reducing the fiscal deficit with that of returning the UK economy to full employment any time soon.”

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