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Unexpected rise in unemployment figures

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Official figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of unemployed people rose by 2,400 last month – an unexpectedly high number. Analysts had forecast a fall of 3,000.

The claimant count – the number of people claiming unemployment benefits – rose to 1.46 million in January. On the wider ILO measure, unemployment was seen to rise by 44,000 in the three months to December, hitting 2.49 million.

These numbers highlight the fragility of Britain’s recovery. Indeed, unemployment is expected to further increase as the government’s cuts deepen.

“The structural weakness of the economy and the intensified fiscal squeeze will continue to loom over the UK jobs market”, says Neil Prothero, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Mr Prothero continues: “In particular, the outlook remains ominously uncertain for the UK’s next generation of workers, who face a Britain damaged by the effects of the financial crisis and recession. In the decade prior to 2008 the economy, and thus job creation, was driven in large part by the expansion of the public sector, financial services, construction and retail–all of which now face a sobering period of adjustment.”

Indeed, the ONS figures show that unemployment in the 16 to 24 age group rose to 965,000 in the three months to December, the highest since records began in 1992.

“New areas of growth will emerge over time in manufacturing, ‘green’ energy and technology, but with the outlook for private consumption so muted, and labour productivity still subdued, we are sceptical that hiring by the private sector will pick up sufficiently strongly this year and next to offset the public sector culls,” adds Prothero.

The new ONS numbers show that women appear to be bearing the brunt of the job losses. While the number of men claiming unemployment benefit fell by 5,400 between December and January, the number of women claimants rose by 7,800, reports the Guardian.

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