Employment minister Chris Grayling welcomes drop in those claiming Job Seeker's Allowance but admits "real concern" over new unemployment figures
By Jonathan Isaby
Unemployment figures for the three months to January were released at 9.30am and media are already concentrating on the headline figure of 2.53 million being a 17-year high, with the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increasing to 974,000, the highest since records began in 1992.
However, the total claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 10,200 to 1.45 million, the biggest reduction since last June, and the total number of people in work increased by 32,000 to 29.16 million, the highest figure since last autumn - and one driven entirely by an increase in jobs in the private sector.
Other statistics worth noting include:
- The number of over-65s in work increased by 56,000 in the latest quarter to reach 900,000, the highest since records began in 1992;
- There was also a record number of 50 to 64-year-olds in work - up by 25,000 to 7.3 million;
- There were almost half a million job vacancies in the three months to February, up by 24,000 over the previous quarter.
Employment minister Chris Grayling responded to the latest numbers thus:
"There is good news and bad news in these figures. There's been a welcome drop in the number of people on benefits, and the increase in full-time private sector jobs is a step in the right direction.
"But the rise in overall unemployment is a real concern and underlines the need to press ahead with policies which will further stimulate growth in the private sector. For those on benefits that are now looking to make the transition into the workplace our new Work Programme will provide tailored support to get them into jobs."
Foreign affairs issues aside, this would seem a likely topic for Ed Miliband to raise at today's PMQs.