Britain's jobless total hits eight-year low

The number of people in work in the UK has reached a record 30.7 million following another fall in the jobless total there.

Unemployment dipped by 154,000 in the quarter to August to 1.97 million, the lowest for eight years.

There was also an 18,600 fall in the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in September to 951,900 – the 23rd consecutive monthly reduction.

The UK’s unemployment rate has reached a six-year low of 6%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported.

Unemployment has fallen by 538,000 over the past year, the biggest annual reduction since records began in 1972.

But the number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, long-term sick and those retiring early, increased by 113,000 in the latest quarter to more than nine million.

Average earnings, including bonuses, increased by 0.7% in the year to August, up by 0.1 percentage point on the previous month.

The number of self-employed people dropped by 76,000 in the latest three months to 4.5 million, but the total is 279,000 higher than a year ago.

Self-employment now makes up almost 15% of total employment in the UK.

Job vacancies have increased by 18,000 to 674,000 since the summer.

Meanwhile, the number of employees in part-time jobs has reached a record high of 6.8 million.

Youth unemployment – covering 16-to-24-year-olds – fell by 88,000 over the quarter to 733,000, giving a jobless rate among the age group of 16%.

There were 162,000 unemployed 16-and-17-year-olds, down by 11,000 on the previous three months.

There were 842,000 working days lost through strikes in the year to August, mainly through disputes in the public sector, the most for almost two years.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union working for the ONS mounted a picket line outside the organisation’s London offices as part of a UK-wide civil service strike over pay and jobs.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “Our jobs-rich economic recovery means that Britain is fast becoming the job creation capital of the western economies. Because our recovery plan is working, so is the country and in record numbers.

“Every job created is a family made more secure and is another step towards the stronger economy and fairer society that Liberal Democrats are committed to build.”

Employment Minister Esther McVey said: “All of our reforms are focused on helping people into work and today’s record figures show that the Government’s long-term economic plan to help businesses create jobs and get people working again is proving successful.

“Behind the record figures there are countless individual stories of people turning their lives around, of families who are now feeling more secure with a regular wage, and of young people escaping unemployment and building a career.

“We know there is always more to do, which is why it is vital to stick to delivering a plan for full employment that’s creating growth and jobs.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “The long-delayed recovery is welcome. It is essential that, as the public finances improve, that money is spent getting the two million still on the dole back to work and restoring living standards.”

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