North East jobless figure soars as UK unemployment falls to seven-year low

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Unemployment in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since 2008 - but it’s a different story in the North East, new figures have shown.

While a record number of people are in work in the country as a whole, this region has seen a 12,000 rise in the number out of work in the quarter to August.

Nationally, the jobless total dipped by 79,000 to 1.7 million - the lowest figure since the summer of 2008, giving a jobless rate of 5.4%.

Employment increased by 140,000 in the same three months to 31 million, the highest since records began in 1971.

However, the statistics reveal there are now 109,000 people out of work in the North East - an unemployment rate of 8.6%.

The Office for National Statistics said the fall in unemployment generally more than outstripped recent rises.

But the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit - the so-called claimant count - increased last month by 4,600 to 796,200.

Average earnings increased by 3% in the year to August, 0.1% up on the previous month and the highest since May.

ONS labour market statistician Nick Palmer said: “Wages continue to grow strongly in real terms.”

There were just over nine million people classed as economically inactive, a rate of 22%, and little changed from the three months to May.

The figure, which includes those taking early retirement, looking after a relative or “discouraged”, has only fallen by 13,000 in the past year.

There were 1.2 million people in part-time jobs who wanted full-time work, down by 9,000.

The number of job vacancies in the economy increased by 4,000 over the latest quarter to 738,000.

Long-term unemployment has also fallen, down by 44,000 to 526,000 for those out of work for over a year.

The UK has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU, which has an average of 9.5%, with only Germany, the Czech Republic and Malta having lower rates.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “This is a fantastic set of figures, which show more people in work than ever before and a strong growth in wages.

“That is a credit to British business, and a credit to the hard-working people of this country.

“Alongside this, unemployment has fallen to the lowest level since 2008, and long-term unemployment has dropped by a staggering quarter over the last year.

“This positive picture is replicated up and down the country, demonstrating that this one-nation Government is delivering a society with opportunity and security for all at its heart.”

But Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “The job losses at Redcar Steelworks and JCB are dark clouds on the horizon.

“Employment growth is likely to slow as large cuts in public sector employment kick in and as lower-paid workers seek more hours to make up for the nearly £30 per week cuts they face in tax credits.”

And Owen Smith, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “While it is welcome that unemployment is falling, after having increased in recent months, concerns over pay and tax credits are growing for millions of British workers.

“The Tories are actually making the situation worse for low and middle-paid workers, as cuts to tax credits will take an average £1,300 out of the pockets of up to three million working families.

“People are working harder than ever, but will rightly feel that the Government is working against them.”