Unemployment falls but rate of improvement slows

Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 12:31
Written by Daniel Mason

There were 2.34 million people out of work in the UK in the three months to December, down 125,000 on the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics said today.

The unemployment rate stood at 7.2% at the end of 2013 – a fall of 0.4 percentage points since the July to September period, according to the latest estimates.

In October-December there were 30.15 million people in employment, up 193,000, while the number of women in work – at 14 million – was the highest since records began.

Women made up 46% of the workforce and there was a rise in the number of women working full time.

Nick Palmer, a senior labour market statistician at the ONS, said the figures were not directly comparable to a figure published last month for the September to November period, which showed joblessness lower at 7.1%.

But he indicated it meant the rate at which unemployment has been falling was likely to have slowed down.

Meanwhile average earnings increased by 1.1% in the year to December.

The prime minister, David Cameron, tweeted that it was "good to see another fall in unemployment" and to see "more people with security of a wage and a chance in life".

The chief secretary to the Treasury, Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, said: "Quarter by quarter, job by job we are rebuilding Britain's economy. Every job created is a family helped and a boost to our economic growth."

But Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, warned that the government should "not be complacent".

"More than 900,000 young people are still unemployed and over 250,000 young people have been unemployed for over a year," she said.

"Today's figures also show working people facing a cost of living crisis are over £1,600 a year worse off since David Cameron became prime minister."

The general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, claimed that the recovery was limited to London and the south east.

"Our regions continue to be failed by the government's economic policy," he said. "Regions such as the north east where unemployment is 10%, hit hard by public sector cuts and with more to come.

He added: "Work in this country simply doesn't pay for millions of people. It is often insecure, low-waged with people being forced to work part time when they urgently need a full time wage."

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