Unemployment Rises to 2.2m

Unemployment in Britain rose again in March, with official figures showing that the number of jobless rose to 2.2m, a 13-year high.

Unemployment is up by 244,000 since December, and by nearly 600,000 in the past year. The unemployment rate jumped from 6.7% in February to 7.1% in March.

The number of people claiming benefits in March climbed 57,000 to just over 1.5 m.

However, the increase in the jobless numbers was down on recent months, providing some grounds for cautious optimism that the economy may be close to bottoming out. The 57,000 rise in the numbers out of work last month compared with a 74,000 jump in April, and a 137,000 increase in March.

Hugo Sellert, head of economic research at Monster Worldwide, told Recruiter: “In line with the latest ONS results, the Monster Employment Index UK is starting to show a stabilisation in the rate of decline in the UK job market.

In April, the Index registered its second gain in three months, partially halting the downward trend seen between May 2008 and January 2009.

Some areas of the economy are still showing steady growth, such as the education and healthcare sectors.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 455,000 job vacancies in the first three months of the year, down 51,000 from the previous quarter and 232,000 less than the same period of 2008.

There was further evidence of downward pressure on pay, with pay freezes, wage cuts, and short-time working much in evidence.

Excluding bonuses, average earnings growth fell to a 3% annual rate in March, from 3.2% in February