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Unemployment passes two million mark

Data released today by the Office for National Statistics shows unemployment passed the two million mark over the three months to January.

Unemployment is now at 2.029 million or 6.5% of the economically active population. The level of unemployment on this measure stands at its highest level since the first few months of New Labour in 1997.

Claimant count unemployment also rose by 138,400 in February from January.

This was the largest monthly rise since records began in 1971; surpassing monthly spikes in the early 1980s or 1990s recessions.

This increase dwarfed the median expectation of an 84,900 rise in the claimant count and is far higher than the upwardly revised 93,500 increase in January.

Overall claimant count unemployment now stands at 1.391 million, its highest level since January 1998.

Average earnings also fell sharply in January as bonus levels nosedived. Average earnings including bonuses rose by just 1.8% over the year to January, down from 3.1% in December and far lower than expectations of an easing in the annual growth rate to 3.0%.

Private sector earnings including bonuses grew by just 1.4% over the year to January compared to 4% in the public sector. Excluding bonuses, overall earnings grew by 3.4% year on year. Many of those in employment face weaker income growth prospects or the prospect of losing their job.

Illustrating this and where the recession is hitting home, redundancies rose by 263,000 over the three months to December, including 60,000 in the manufacturing sector and 52,000 in finance and business services.


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