The number of people classed as unemployed and looking for work has increased by 15,000 over the last quarter, according to the latest employment figures.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show that there were 15,000 more unemployed people in March to May 2015 than for the 3 months to February 2015; but 273,000 fewer than the same period in the previous year. The unemployment rate is 5.6%.
The figures also reveal that the number of people regarded as ‘economically inactive’, those who were out of work and not seeking or available to work, has increased by 30,000 and up 104,000 in only a year. This may be partly explained by an increase in the number of people claiming sickness benefits.
There were 30.98 million people in work between March to May 2015. This is 67,000 fewer than for the 3 months to February 2015, representing the first fall in employment levels since February to April 2013.
However, there has been an overall increase of 265,000 in employment levels in the last year, with the proportion of people deemed able to work and in employment now standing at 73.3%.
According to the ONS, average wages have increased by 3.2% over the past year, including bonuses. This falls to 2.8% when bonuses are excluded from the data.
Headline statistics (source: ONS):
- There were 30.98 million people in work. This was 67,000 fewer than for the 3 months to February 2015, the first quarterly fall since February to April 2013. Comparing March to May 2015 with a year earlier, there were 265,000 more people in work (272,000 more people working full-time and 7,000 fewer people working part-time).
- The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate) was 73.3%, little changed compared with the 3 months to February 2015 but higher than for a year earlier (72.9%).
- There were 1.85 million unemployed people. This was 15,000 more than for the 3 months to February 2015, the first quarterly increase since January to March 2013. Comparing March to May 2015 with a year earlier, there were 273,000 fewer unemployed people.
- The proportion of the economically active population who were unemployed (the unemployment rate) was 5.6%, little changed compared with the 3 months to February 2015 but lower than for a year earlier (6.5%). Economically active people are those in work plus those seeking and available to work.
- There were 9.02 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were out of work and not seeking or available to work (known as economically inactive), 30,000 more than for the 3 months to February 2015 and 104,000 more than for a year earlier.
- The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive (the inactivity rate) was 22.2%, little changed compared with the 3 months to February 2015 but higher than for a year earlier (22.0%).
- Comparing March to May 2015 with a year earlier, pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 3.2% including bonuses and by 2.8% excluding bonuses.
Responding to the figures from the ONS, Labour’s Acting Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Timms MP, said:
“Today’s rise in overall unemployment to 1.85 million, the first in over two years, is extremely concerning.
“David Cameron and George Osborne must do far more to give every jobseeker the skills they need to find a job and build a career. Labour have repeatedly urged the government to increase the number of apprenticeships to build a highly skilled workforce, but ministers failed to act and last year the number of young people starting an apprenticeship fell.
“It’s time for the government to boost the number of apprenticeships to give everyone the chance to earn, learn and contribute.”
Answering a questions from Labour’s interim leader Harriet Harman during PMQ’s, Prime Minister David Cameron admitted the figures were “disappointing”.
Mr Cameron said: “There are mixed messages in these figures. It is disappointing that the claimant count has gone up having fallen for so many months in a row and still being at the lowest level since 1975.
“But long term unemployment is down, youth unemployment is down, the rate of employment for women is at a new record high.
“And interestingly when you look across the last year you can actually see that all of the rise in employment in the last year has been people working full time.”
Meanwhile, Scottish unemployment has fallen by 15,000 to 152,000 and the number of people in work has increased by 1,000 to 2,616,000.
The Scottish unemployment rate is now 5.5%.
Youth unemployment in Scotland has fallen 20,000 over the past year and the number of people in Scotland claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 1,700 to 74,600 in the last quarter.
Annabelle Ewing, Scotland’s Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment, said: “These figures show a growing economy and falling unemployment – both extremely encouraging indicators and signs that the economic picture in Scotland is continuing to improve.
“Indeed, Scotland was the only country of the UK where unemployment actually fell over the quarter.
“The 20,000 fall over the year in youth unemployment also means 20,000 more young people are now benefitting from the rewards and opportunities of work – something we are determined to improve on even further.
“Youth employment is one of our highest priorities and we will continue to work with employers and all other interested parties to ensure more of our young men and women get in to work and stay in work.
“These statistics are not just good news for employment but our economy across the board – especially our construction sector.”