Suffolk: Dip in unemployment is welcomed

TOTAL unemployment in the UK has fallen for the first time in nearly two years, official figures have revealed today.But the pre-Christmas dip in the dole queue still left the jobless count in Suffolk well above the levels of a year ago.

TOTAL unemployment in the UK has fallen for the first time in nearly two years, official figures have revealed today.

But the pre-Christmas dip in the dole queue still left the jobless count in Suffolk well above the levels of a year ago.

And forecasters expect the national total to resume an upward trend for some months to come, as the economy struggles to recover from the lengthy recession.

Today's figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the total number of people out of work in the UK fell by 7,000 in the three months to November to 2.46million.


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The narrower count of people in receipt of the Jobseeker's Allowance fell for the second month in a row in December, down by 15,200 to 1.61million - the biggest monthly fall since April 2007.

However, unemployment remains more than 500,000 higher than a year ago, with the number of long-term jobless - those out of work for more than a year - now standing at 631,000, the highest figure since 1997.

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Benefit claimant counts in most parts of Suffolk followed the national downward trend last month.

The biggest falls were in east Suffolk, with Suffolk Coastal, where the count fell by 31 to 1,448, and Waveney, down 67 to 2,631, both seeing their unemployment rate fall by 0.1 of a percentage point, to 2pc and 4pc respectively.

Small falls left the rate unchanged in Ipswich, down 11 to 3,792 (5.0pc), Mid Suffolk, down 22 to 1,156 (2.1pc) and Babergh, down 26 to 1,284 (2.6pc).

However, the west of the county fared less well, with the count rising by three in St Edmundsbury, to 1,681, and by 24 in Forest Heath, to 993, although the unemployment rates remained unchanged at 2.7pc and 2.4pc respectively.

The latest figures mean that a total of 12,985 people in Suffolk are now receiving the Jobseekers' Allowance, up from 10,262 a year ago, an increase of 26.5pc.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber claimed: 'The first fall in overall unemployment since the recession started shows that Government investment is the best way to secure a sustained economic recovery. Cutting back on spending now could still unleash a double-dip recession and send unemployment soaring.'

But he added: 'Long-term unemployment is still a huge concern, and it will continue to rise well after the recession ends. Long spells out of work can increase the likelihood of mental health problems and relationship breakdown, and devastate entire communities.'

The ONS data also showed that average pay increased by 0.7pc in the year to November, up by 0.1pc from the previous month. Wage deals in private firms fell by 0.1pc but increased by 3.8pc in the public sector.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: 'The gap between public and private sector wages has widened, reinforcing the need for a freeze in the total public sector pay bill as a key measure in battling the UK's unsustainable budget deficit. We cannot have a situation where public sector wages are outstripping those in the private sector.'

However, he added: 'The welcome fall in unemployment raises hopes that next week's GDP figures will confirm that the recession is over.

Lee Hopley, chief economist at the Engineering Employers Federation, said: 'Labour conditions appeared to stabilise across the economy towards the end of last year and, following sharp cuts earlier in the year, the pace of manufacturing job losses has also continued to slow.

'However, we are likely to see continued pay restraint in the coming months and any turnaround in employment is likely to lag some way behind a return to growth in the economy.'

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