Economy tracker: Unemployment

Latest news:

Unemployment fell by 146,000 to 2.02 million in the three months to the end of July, while the rate fell to 6.2%, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, the lowest level since September-November 2008.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in August fell by 37,200 to below one million, at 966,500, the ONS said.

Understanding unemployment:
  • A person is classed as unemployed if not only out of work, but also actively looking for work and available to start work within a fortnight
  • Unemployment figures are based on a survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics. They show the average number of people unemployed over a three-month period
  • A new survey is done every month, but comparisons are made between separate three-month periods, not overlapping ones. e.g. April-June v Jan-March, not April-June v March-May
  • The ONS also publishes the claimant count which shows the number of people receiving Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) in a particular month. That figure comes from information supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions
  • The unemployment figure is higher than the claimant count as many jobseekers do not or cannot claim JSA
  • The two main measures can sometimes move in different directions. A change in benefits rules moving people on to JSA from another benefit, for example, would increase the claimant count without a corresponding increase in unemployment.
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Graduates at a job fair

Unemployment is referred to as a lagging indicator, because businesses will often delay laying people off as long as they can in difficult times.

A few months after the start of the recession in 2008, unemployment started to rise sharply. When the global financial crisis hit, the unemployment rate was a little over 5% or 1.6 million.

Towards the end of 2009, with the UK coming out of its severest recession since the 1950s, it was almost a million higher at 2.5 million, or 8%.

Unemployment peaked at almost 2.7 million at the end of 2011, its highest level for 17 years.

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