Sunday, February 19, 2012

u.k. unemployment stuck at 17-year high as economy flatlines

Guardian | George Osborne is facing growing pressure to take action to tackle long-term unemployment in next month's budget, after official figures revealed that 860,000 people have now been out of work for more than a year.

The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, accused Osborne of complacency as the latest snapshot of the labour market by the Office for National Statistics showed the unemployment rate stuck at a 17-year high of 8.4% in the three months to December and the number of women claiming unemployment benefits at the highest level since 1995.

The number of people out of work was up by 48,000 on the previous three months to 2.67 million, almost a third of whom have been unable to find work for more than a year.

Two-thirds of the increase in unemployment was accounted for by women, who continue to be hit hardest by the deterioration in the labour market. The number of women claiming unemployment benefits has hit 531,700 – driven partly by government reforms that have forced single mothers to return to the labour market. A record number of people were working part-time as they were unable to find full-time work.

"If we don't act we will pay a long-term price as a society because you can't just get rid of long-term unemployment quickly, we saw that in the 1980s. I fear we are making the same mistake again andI do think the government's got to drop the complacency and start to talk about what can be done," Balls told Radio 4.

The more timely claimant count measure of unemployment, which tracks the number of people receiving out-of-work benefits, rose by 6,900 in January, to 1.6 million.