Concern grows as jobless count rises

THE number of people receiving unemployment benefit rose unexpectedly last month – although Uttlesford bucked the national trend.

According to figures revealed by the Office for National Statistics yesterday, the claimant count rose by 12,400 compared with March to 1.47 million, confounding the expectations of economists for a decline of between 4,000 and 10,000.

The wider measure of total unemployment in the UK, which includes those not eligible for benefit, did fall by 36,000 in the quarter to March to 2.455 million, and employment increased, showing a 118,000 rise on the quarter to 29.24 million.

But economists warned that total unemployment was likely to head upwards over the coming months, despite yesterday’s fall, as the Government’s austerity measures bite.

Chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, Howard Archer, has forecast unemployment to increase to 2.67 million by the end of this year.

He said: “We suspect that likely below-trend growth will mean that the private sector will be unable to fully compensate for the increasing job losses in the public sector that will result from the fiscal squeeze that is now really kicking in.”

At a local level, the claimant count defied the national upward trend in most parts of mid and north Essex. Tendring led the way with a fall of 158, cutting the total to 3,474 and the rate by 0.2 per cent to 4.1 per cent.

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Rates fell by 0.1 per cent, in Uttlesford, down 41 to 776 (1.6 per cent), Braintree, down 87 to 2,581 (2.8 per cent), Chelmsford, down 41 to 2,785 (2.5 per cent), and Maldon, down 42 to 874 (2.2 per cent), while Colchester’s fall of 13 to 3,175 left the rate unchanged at 2.7 per cent.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said yesterday: “These are welcome figures showing another rise in full-time employment in the private sector.”

But Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Liam Byrne responded: “We welcome any glimmer of good news but today’s figures are a sign we are not out of the woods by a long stretch.

“The claimant count is up, vacancies are down and this is before the wave of public sector redundancies and school leavers come on to the books.”