UK jobless total on the up again

17-04-2005

The number of jobless people in the UK has risen, according to the latest set of official figures. In the three months from December to February the government's preferred ILO measure of unemployment rose by 29,000 to 1.43 million, a rate of 4.8%.

The number of people out of work and claiming unemployment benefit rose by 11,000 to 828,700 in March.

Meanwhile, average earnings rose by 4.7% in the year to February, up from the previous month's level of 4.4%.

Underlying annual earnings growth, which excludes the impact of bonuses, eased a touch to 4.3% from 4.4%, suggesting that wage pressures remain subdued despite a relatively strong labour market.

Factory jobs hit

Despite the rise in the jobless total, the number of people in work continues to rise, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Between December and February there were 28,639,000 people in jobs, a rise during the quarter of 148,000.

Under the old fashioned claimant count measure, the jobless rate rose to 2.7% in March from 2.6% previously. In the ILO measure, the jobless rate rose to 4.8% in the three months to February from 4.7% previously.

Manufacturing jobs hit a fresh record low of 3.23 million following the loss of another 85,000 posts in the quarter to February, compared with a year ago.

On the day the jobless figures were released, spouses and children of MG Rover workers were on their way to London to protest against the threatened job losses at the Longbridge factory in Birmingham.

Jury's out

Analysts said more data was needed to assess the short-term direction of interest rates.

"We believe that it remains a very close call on whether interest rates will rise in May," said Howard Archer at Global Insight.

"Much will depend on the strength of first quarter GDP growth and consumer spending data and survey evidence over the next few weeks."

Others thought that the jobless figures made a rate rise less likely.

"Both unemployment measures have gone up suggesting perhaps the labour market is weakening," said David Page at Investec.

"The Bank of England is likely to take a sanguine view of these figures."

BBC News

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