UK unemployment falls by 82,000, says ONS

The number of people out of work fell by 82,000 between August and October, to 2.51 million, official figures have shown.

It was the biggest quarterly fall in unemployment since 2001.

The unemployment rate was 7.8%, down 0.2 percentage points from the previous three months.

The Office for National Statistics also said that the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell 3,000 to 1.58 million in November.

Total pay was up 1.8% compared with the same period last year.

Employment rose 40,000 to 29.6 million, which was the highest figure since records began in 1971.

"We see more people looking for work and actually finding work, so I think there's a really strong labour market there," Mark Hoban, minister for work and pensions, told the BBC.

"I think there's more flexibility in the labour market, although this month we've seen a big increase in full-time jobs and no movement at all in the number of part-time jobs."

David Cameron was challenged in the Commons over "stubbornly high" long-term unemployment

Employment in the public sector fell for the 12th consecutive month, dropping 24,000 to 5.7 million, which was outstripped by a 65,000 rise in private sector employment to 23.8 million.

"The main disappointment was the fact that despite the gains in employment, there is no pick-up in wage growth, which remains at 1.8%, year on year," said James Knightley at ING.

"The fact that UK employment is rising, consumer confidence is up and anecdotal evidence of retail sales haven't been too bad, offers some hope that the domestic situation in the UK is stabilising."

Among the details in the ONS report:

  • number in full-time employment rose 44,000
  • number in part-time employment fell 4,000
  • unemployed 16-to-24-year-olds fell 90,000 to 626,000, excluding people in full-time education
  • the biggest regional fall in employment was in Scotland, where it fell 27,000
  • the biggest regional rise was in Yorkshire and the Humber, where it rose 48,000

Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband said long-term unemployment was still "stubbornly high" and the problem was of "fundamental importance... to the country as a whole".

Start Quote

Things seem to be getting better for young people looking for work. Or at least they are not getting worse. Alas, the same cannot be said for average earnings, which have actually now fallen even further behind inflation in October, with average annual growth of just 1.3%, less than half the rate of inflation.”

End Quote

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said that while long-term youth unemployment was down 10,000, the problem showed the importance of the government's Work Programme. However, "clearly, there is more to do," he said.

Surprising strength

Many analysts have questioned why unemployment has not been higher, given the general weakness of the economy.

The flexibility of the workforce has been part of that, according to Ross Walker, UK economist at RBS, who points to the large numbers of part-time jobs in previous months, small rises in average wages and the increase in self-employment.

"None of that fully explains the gap - we would still have expected the labour market to have been rather weaker than it has been," he said.

"Maybe actually, underlying growth is a little bit better than is being reported."

BBC chief economics correspondent Hugh Pym said the Bank of England had admitted it did not understand why the labour market was so strong.

"They're a bit worried about low productivity - in other words, more people in work, but not producing proportionally the amount that you would expect," he said.

Shadow employment minister Liam Byrne: "We are absolutely not out of the woods yet"

"So is that a sign of a weak economy or an economy that's got potential to grow in the future? They really don't know."

The Office for Budget Responsibility, which makes economic forecasts on behalf of the government, last week cut its forecast for the peak rate of unemployment to 8.2%, although that still suggests a considerable increase in joblessness from the current 7.8%.

Shadow work and pensions minister Liam Byrne welcomed the fall in unemployment, but stressed that there was also bad news in the figures.

"Pay packets are under intense pressure as the pace of jobs growth slows down - wages are now growing at only half the rate of prices," he told the BBC.

"Families are under real pressure right now and what today's figures show is that the Department for Work and Pensions' big back-to-work programmes are frankly delivering nothing."

Your comments

At university I had a part time job, so after graduation I stayed in Leeds (I'm from Southampton). Through contacts, I got work experience, which landed me an executive role in a digital marketing agency. It's easy to feel defeated by rejections but as a graduate you have marketable skills.

Hannah McCulloch, Leeds, West Yorkshire

I have been out of university since 2005, with a 2:1 in Accountancy and Finance. I have had many short term roles, just to get money but have been trying to find a full-time Internal Audit role. Seven years later I am giving up and starting to consider a career in teaching.

Edward Snook, Northamptonshire

I am nearing the end of a six-month contract position locally but I have found myself a well-paid job starting in January. The bad news is that I will have to commute long distance and my wife's employer is going through a redundancy process. Many people are finding it very tough.

Philip Le Roux, Farnborough, Hampshire

It would be great if the true unemployment figures were really falling. The truth is, there is very little full-time jobs being created - most of these jobs are part-time and on low pay. Most unemployed people are being forced to take these jobs or lose their benefit entitlement.

Thomas Salter, London

My fiancé was made redundant and all of the outgoings are now paid by me. We can barely afford to eat after our rent and bills are paid. He tried to claim Jobseeker's allowance but was told because I work over 26 hours a week he didn't qualify. They didn't even look at our outgoings. I feel horribly let down, we've spent years paying NI and tax.

Alix George, Folkestone, Kent

What these figures don't show is that most of the jobs are fly by night jobs where one has to phone in at night to see if they are needed the next day, (and most days they are not needed). There is no security in this and the government is misleading the public.

Terry, St Helens, Merseyside

I have been looking for permanent employment since I finished university last year. So far I have had three temporary jobs. My current contract ends in two months and I will be back on the job hunt. The vast majority of newly-employed people are employed on a temporary basis, which of course suits the employer in these difficult times.

Thomas O'Brien, Birmingham

I think these statistics are a joke. I got kicked off of Jobseeker's allowance in September for two and a half months because I failed to apply for one position. They are taking people off of all benefits left, right and centre. It's not really that the economy is getting better, it's the fact that they're screwing around with the figures to make it look that way.

Sarah, Leeds

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