Long-term jobless figures increase
Business groups, unions and politicians have voiced concern about long-term unemployment after it increased to a 17-year high, despite another fall in the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.
The Prime Minister welcomed a fall of 57,000 in unemployment in the quarter to May to 2.51 million, the lowest since last autumn, and a cut of 21,200 in the claimant count in June to 1.48 million, the best figure for more than two years.
But long-term unemployment has reached its highest level since 1996, with 915,000 people out of work for more than a year, an increase of 32,000, while just over 460,000 people have been jobless for more than two years, the highest figure since 1997.
The number of people classed as economically inactive also increased in the latest quarter, up by 87,000 to 9.04 million.
The figure included a 44,000 increase in economically inactive students, a 26,000 rise among the long-term sick and 8,000 more people who retired early.
The Office for National Statistics also reported that 29.7 million people were in employment in the three months to May, up 16,000 on the previous quarter, and an increase of 336,000 on a year ago. Unemployment is 72,000 lower than a year ago, with a jobless rate of 7.8%. Youth unemployment fell by 20,000 to 959,000, giving a jobless rate for 16 to 24-year-olds of 20.9%.
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: "Today's figures are encouraging, with the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance down and the number of people in work increasing.
"The fall in the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits, together with the news that there are currently over half a million vacancies available in the UK economy, show that there are opportunities out there for those who are prepared to work hard, and who aspire to get on in life."
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said: "Small relief in the unemployment figures will be no comfort to those struggling with the misery of long-term unemployment. Every job lost is a personal tragedy and the Government has to do more to tackle the persistent jobs crisis."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "While today's figures show some welcome small improvements our labour market remains a long way off from a strong recovery. Long-term unemployment is at a 17-year high and youth unemployment remains at crisis levels. Those in work are continuing to see the value of their wages pushed down by inflation, as the biggest squeeze in living standards for over a century continues. In some regions unemployment is still rising."