Jobless count hits 2.44 million

Unemployment in the UK has soared to its highest level since 1996 after rising by 220,000 over the past quarter to 2.44 million, official figures have shown.

The Office for National Statistics figures for the three months to June show that the jobless rate under the Government’s preferred International Labour Organisation (ILO) measure now stands at 7.8 per cent of the workforce - the highest since 1996, a year before Labour came to power.

The figures also show that the employment rate of people aged 16-17 fell to just 29 per cent over the quarter, down from 34 per cent a year earlier, while the rate for people aged 18-24 dropped to 60 per cent from 64 per cent a year earlier.

But the figures also showed a small rise of 25,000 in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), bringing to total number of claimants to 1.58 million - which at 4.9 per cent of the workforce is the highest rate since October 1997. Yesterday ministers announced an inquiry into why the JSA count was so out of step with the ILO figure.

IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer said unemployment was likely to continue to rise above three million in 2010 with a peak of around 3.2 million. "Youth unemployment is a growing and a very real concern," he added.

The figures are available here

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