Surge in UK unemployment figures

In the three months to June, unemployment rose by 220k to reach its highest level since 1995.  A further 281,000 redundancies swelled the UK’s jobless ranks to 2.44m – more than during the last couple of downturns, and the biggest total since Labour came to power.

The national unemployment rate now stands at 7.6% (roughly one in thirteen people), and analysts fear that it could rise as high as 10%.  TUC general secretary Brendan Barber described the latest figures as “truly horrendous”.

Almost a million people have taken on part-time work while looking for a full-time job – that’s a quarter of a million more than last year – and over 400,000 are temping while seeking full-time employment.  Self-employment is up by more than 50,000.

Young people have been hit especially hard, with over one in five 18-24-year-olds now jobless.  The latest quarterly rise of 95,000 means some 726,000 of them are currently looking for work – and this number is set to increase dramatically as the summer crop of school and college-leavers joins them in the search for a job.

The latest figures also saw London’s jobless total grow by 28,000 to more than a third of a million – 348,000, or 8.6% of the capital’s working population – which is the highest level since 1998.

Labour Force Survey figures published on the Office for National Statistics website reveal that blue-collar unemployment in the year to March was over three times higher than that for people with professional and managerial skills, and almost three times as high as the rate for people with admin/secretarial skills.

“Heavy job losses in the financial and business services sectors – plus the fact that jobless managers and professionals often attract more public attention – probably explain why there has been so much talk about a ‘white-collar recession’,” notes CIP chief economist John Philpott.  “But the unemployment figures clearly show that blue-collar manual workers have suffered most.”

Over the past year the manufacturing sector alone has seen 212,000 jobs go, while some 196,000 jobs in hotels & restaurants and 187,000 in financial services have also disappeared.

Most analysts expect the inexorable rise in unemployment to continue to 3m and beyond.  David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, has reaffirmed the BCC’s forecast that unemployment will peak at around 3.2m some time next year.

Think-tank Centre for Cities is also warning of potential large-scale job losses in cities that are heavily reliant on public-sector employment, such as Newcastle, Swansea, Plymouth, Ipswich and Newport (Gwent).  Director Dermot Finch believes “the current size of their public-sector workforce is untenable.”

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