By Vivienne Russell | 14 November 2012
Unemployment continued to fall over the three months to September, the Office for National Statistics confirmed today.
The jobless rate was 7.8% of the economically active population, down 0.1 percentage points on the three months to August, and down 0.4 on a year earlier. The number of people out of work was 2.51 million, a drop of 110,000 on the same period in 2011.
Youth employment also fell, by 49,000 to 963,000. The figure excluding students is 648,000.
The employment rate for the September quarter, at 71.2%, was slightly lower than for the three months to August, when it was 71.3%, a fall of about 10,000. However, compared with the same period a year ago, around half a million more people were in employment.
Employment minister Mark Hoban said: ‘Unemployment in the UK is well below levels in the eurozone and the European Union and is lower than in the United States, showing that our welfare reforms are helping the UK compete effectively in the global market place.
‘The fall in youth unemployment is particularly welcome, although we’re not complacent about the scale of the challenge still facing us.’
Commenting on the figures, Charles Levy, senior economist at the Work Foundation, said the improving labour market figures were ‘difficult to reconcile’ with the weakness in the economy over the past year. ‘One consequence of this mismatch is the ongoing fall in wages, which will be exacerbated by yesterday’s surprisingly high inflation figure.’
He added that the pace of job creation might have slowed in the past couple of months. ‘These numbers will have been boosted by the Olympics, the effects of which may well be temporary. Today’s statistics also underline the fact that we are moving in a very different direction to the rest of the European Union. The health of our neighbours still presents a serious risk to any recovery,’ Levy said.
Tony Dolphin, chief economist at the Institute for Public Policy Research, observed that ‘one unwelcome note’ was the 12,000 increase in the number of long-term unemployed people.
‘Although this is a smaller rise than recorded in recent months, and there are good reasons to expect long-term unemployment to stop rising in coming months, there are now almost 900,000 people in the UK who have been out of work for more than a year. This is an area where more government action is needed,’ he said.