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East Anglia: Unemployment follows national downward trend as total reaches five-year low

PUBLISHED: 11:18 13 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:21 13 August 2014

The number of people claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance has fallen for the 21st month in a row.

The number of people claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance has fallen for the 21st month in a row.

Unemployment has continued to fall, with the number of people claiming the Jobseeker’s Allowance on course to dip below a million for the first time in six years, according to official figures published today.

Total unemployment stood at 2.08m in the quarter to June, down by 132,000 on January to March and the lowest since the end of 2009, giving an unemployment rate of 6.4%.

And the narrower count of those eligible to claim the Jobseeker’s Allowance fell for the 21st month in a row in July, by 33,600 to a seasonally-adjusted 1.01 million, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

If the trend continues, the number of claimants will fall to less than a million next month for the first time since September 2008, with the unadjusted figure already below the key threshold at 995,835, a rate of 2.4%.

Unemployment has now fallen by 437,000 over the past year, although there was a 15,000 increase in the number of people classed as economically inactive to 8.8m, a figure which includes students, people looking after a sick relative, taking early retirement or who have given up looking for work.

The number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 102,000 over the quarter to 767,000, more than 200,000 lower than a year ago, the biggest fall since records began in 1992.

Long-term unemployment also fell, with the number out of work for more than a year down by 75,000 to 738,000.

The number of people in work grew by 167,000 over the quarter, and by 820,000 compared with a year ago,to 30.6m, helped by the number of self-employed people reaching a record 4.5m.

However, today’s figures also revealed a 0.2% fall in average earnings in the year to June. The ONS said this was due to unusually high growth a year ago and that, excluding bonuses, pay of 0.6% higher than a year ago. However, this still leaves growth in earnings lagging well behind the rate of inflation which currently stands at 1.9%.

Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant counts in most parts of Suffolk and north Essex followed the national downward trend, with the largest falls reflecting the onset of the main holiday season coming in the Tendring district, where the total fell by 129 compared with June to 2,135 and the rate by 0.1 of a percentage point to 2.8%, and in Waveney, where the count fell by 80 to 1,582 and the rate by 0.1% to 2.4%.

Most other districts also saw their jobless rates edge 0.1% lower including, Ipswich, down 37 to 2,480 (a rate of 2.8%), Suffolk Coastal, down 32 to 598 (0.8%), Colchester, down 78 to 1,750 (1.5%), Braintree, down 63 to 1,438 (1.5%), Maldon, down 51 to 451 (1.2%), and Uttlesford, down 45 to 340 (0.7%).

Smaller falls left the rates unchanged in Babergh, down 13 to 630 (1.2%), Forest Heath, also down 13 to 389 (1.0%), and Chelmsford, down 28 to 1,609 (1.5%). In St Edmundsbury, however, the count remained unchanged at 829 (leaving the rate at 1.2%), and in Mid Suffolk the total edged eight higher to 568 (pushing the rate up 0.1% to 1.0%).

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “In the past, many people in our society were written off and trapped in unemployment and welfare dependency. But through our welfare reforms, we are helping people to break that cycle and get back into work.

“The Government’s long-term economic plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society is working, with employment going up, record drops in youth unemployment and hundreds of thousands of people replacing their signing-on book with a wage packet.

“This is transformative, not only for these individuals and their families, but for society as a whole. That is why we have set full employment as one of our key targets, bringing security and hope to families who have lost their jobs and others who never had jobs, we put people at the heart of the plan.

“The best way to help even more people into work is to go on delivering a plan that’s creating growth and jobs.”

However, shadow employment minister Stephen Timms said: “While today’s fall in overall unemployment is welcome, it’s extremely worrying that the figures have shown pay falling far behind inflation, and the change in regular pay being the lowest ever on record. Millions of working people face a cost-of-living crisis which has left them over £1,600 worse off since 2010.

“For Iain Duncan Smith to claim that people are ‘better off’ in the face of these figures shows just how out of touch this Government is.

“A Labour government would extend free childcare provision, freeze gas and electricity bills, raise the minimum wage and build more homes to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. We would also bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee to get the next generation into jobs and tackle the high levels of long-term unemployment.”

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