Older workers hit hard by rising unemployment

14 March 2012

UK unemployment rose by 28,000 to 2.67 million during the three months to January, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is the over-50s who bore the brunt of the shrinking economy during the period, with a further 19,000 laid off between November and January.

The unemployment rate has risen to 8.4% of the population, up from 8.3% in the previous three-month period. It's now at its highest level since 1995.

Youth unemployment rose by 16,000 with 1.042 million 16 to 24-year-olds out of work – amounting to 22.5% of the age group.

The number of people claiming Jobseekers' Allowance reflected the rise in unemployment with 7,200 more people signing on, taking the overall number to 1.61 million in February.

The official labour market figures show the smallest quarterly increase in unemployment since May 2011, but many economists expect the total number out of work to be approaching 3 million by the end of 2012.

"It is encouraging that 9,000 new jobs were created in the quarter, but the simple fact is that the private sector cannot create enough jobs to absorb those being shed by the public sector," says David Birne, an insolvency specialist at accountants HW Fisher & Company.

"The hope has always been that the private sector would ride to the rescue of those cast off by the shrinking public sector. But the rescue mission is going nowhere – as small businesses are held back by a dearth of finance and fears over fragile demand."

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