UK jobless at new 17-year high
London, January 18, 2012
The number of Britons out of work hit its highest level in more than 17 years in November, but a much smaller than expected number of new benefit claims in December provided some hope.
Unemployment rose less in Britain than in most other advanced economies in the recession immediately after the 2008 financial crisis, but increased steadily through 2011 as the euro zone crisis darkened the outlook.
The government is cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs as part of its five-year budget deficit reduction programme, and the private sector is picking up only some of the slack as the euro zone crisis pushes Britain back towards recession.
The Office for National Statistics said the total number of people unemployed - using the broad, internationally-comparable ILO measure - rose by 118,000 in the three months to November to 2.685 million, the highest level since August 1994.
This equates to 8.4 percent of the workforce, above forecasts of 8.3 percent and the highest since the mid-1990s.
However, the rise in unemployment appears to be levelling off. There was a net increase of 1,200 benefit claims in December after a downwardly revised increase of just 200 in November - far below the 10,000 forecast by analysts and rises triple that in some months earlier in 2011.
"While the increase in headline unemployment this month is a negative sign, the strength of the claimant count measure - which is a more timely measure - provides evidence of some resilience in the labour market," said economists at Credit Suisse.
Nonetheless, most economists said the outlook for jobs remained poor. In November the government's independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that the economy would grow by just 0.7 percent, and that the ILO unemployment rate would rise to 8.7 percent.
"The economy is not growing sufficiently fast to maintain the level of employment, hence further job losses probably lie ahead," said Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotia Capital. - Reuters