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Unemployment reaches 2.64 million

UK unemployment has hit a 17-year high, with the total number of unemployed at 2.64 million over the three months to October, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The unemployment rate is now 8.3%, the highest since 1996. Youth unemployment is stuck above 1 million. The number of people jobseekers claiming unemployment benefits rose by 3,000 during this period, but is lower than the 14,900 that was forecast by economists.

Employment in the private sector rose by 5,000, whilst public sector cuts resulted in a loss of 67,000 jobs. Over the whole year, the private sector rose by 262,000 and employment in the public sector fell by 276,000.

Andrew Sissons, researcher at The Work Foundation, said: “The labour market is on a dangerous trajectory, as today’s numbers confirm that our private sector recovery has stalled. Businesses are suffering from an acute lack of confidence, which makes it very hard for them to create jobs. The Eurozone crisis also makes it impossible for companies to plan for the long term, while consumers at home appear to be cutting back their spending.

“Most worrying is the prospect of unemployment remaining high for years to come. The OBR’s forecast suggests that unemployment will not start to fall significantly until 2014, which means that whatever rate of unemployment we reach over the coming months is likely to persist for several years to come.

“Persistently high unemployment will worsen the already serious problem of long-term unemployment. 868,000 people have been out of work for 12 months or more, and this number is almost certain to rise. Almost half of people trapped in long-term unemployment are either under-24 or over-50, and these groups will find it especially hard to get back into work.”

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