UNEMPLOYMENT has hit a 17-year high of more than 2.5m – while youth joblessness is at record levels.
Official figures showed the UK jobless total rose by 27,000 to 2.53m in the three months to January – the worst figure since 1994.
The Office for National Statistics also showed that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increased by 30,000 to 974,000, the highest since 1992. The unemployment rate for young people rose by 0.8% to a record 20.6%.
The number of people classed as economically inactive also increased – up by 43,000 to 9.33m, including 2.3m looking after a family.
The total claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance fell by 10,200 last month to 1.45m, the biggest reduction since last June.
However the monthly claimant count was up for local constituencies in February – with the Huddersfield tally 99 higher at 3,580; Colne Valley up by 55 at 2,489 and Dewsbury 38 higher at 2,551.
The quarterly figures showed unemployment in Yorkshire rose by about 2,000 to 246,000 or 9.3% of the workforce.
ONS figures showed that the number of male claimants across the UK fell by 17,500 – the 13th consecutive monthly fall. The number of female claimants increased by 7,300 – the eighth monthly rise in a row.
Other data revealed that the number of over-65s in work increased by 56,000 in the latest quarter to reach 900,000, the highest since records began in 1992.
Meanwhile, the number of people in work increased by 32,000 to 29.16m, the highest figure since last autumn.
Public sector employment fell by 45,000 in the final quarter of 2010 to 6.2m – even before the full impact of the Government’s spending cuts started to take effect.
Employment in private firms increased by 77,000 to almost 23m.
There were almost half a million vacancies in the three months to February – up by 24,000 over the previous quarter, although that figure included 29,000 temporary jobs for this year’s census.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said there was good news and bad news in the figures, but admitted: “The rise in overall unemployment is a real concern and underlines the need to press ahead with policies which will further stimulate growth in the private sector.”
But Paul Kenny, general secretary of general union the GMB, said: “There is widespread revulsion that the government is deliberately adding to the dole queues at a time when the economy has not recovered from the ‘bankers recession’.
“GMB’s round-up show that 226,472 public sector jobs are already under threat as a consequence of the spending cuts. Unemployment at all levels is not just a social ill but is an economic disaster. Unemployment is not a price worth paying as we learned during the Thatcher years”.