THE number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance rose unexpectedly last month.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics also showed that the number of women claimants hit a 14-year high – while the claimant count across Kirklees also increased.
The UK claimant count increased by 12,400 last month to 1.47m, the largest increase in 16 months. Economists were expecting a fall of 4,000 to 10,000.
The number of women claiming JSA increased by 9,300 to 474,400, the highest level since October, 1996, while the number of male claimants increased by 3,100 to 994,200.
In Huddersfield, the figure rose by 26 on March to stand at 3,606 while the Colne Valley tally was up by 35 at 2,501 and the total for Dewsbury was 14 higher at 2,513.
The surge in the female claimant count came as more single mothers switched from income support to Jobseekers Allowance due to changes to benefit rules introduced in 2008.
UK unemployment fell by 36,000 in the quarter to March to 2.455m, a rate of 7.7% and down by 0.1% on the quarter.
However, economists warned that unemployment is likely to increase in coming months as the Government’s austerity measures bite.
Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, has forecast unemployment to increase to 2.67m by the end of 2011.
Among other ONS figures, the number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 30,000 over the quarter to 935,000.
The number of jobless 16 and 17-year-olds decreased by 1,000 on the quarter to 211,000 while the number of unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds fell by 29,000 to 724,000.
The improved figures come just days after the Government unveiled a £60m package aimed at boosting work prospects for young people.
Employment rose by 118,000 on the quarter to 29.24m – but still stands 332,000 down on the pre-recession peak reached in May, 2008. Total average weekly earnings, including bonuses, increased by 2.3% in the year to March, the ONS said.
A toxic mix of muted wage growth and soaring inflation has clamped down on household spending power in recent months and the knock-on effect is hitting all sectors of the economy.