UK Politics

Cameron and Miliband clash over rise in UK unemployment

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Media captionCameron and Miliband clashed on jobs and employment figures during PMQs

Prime Minister David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed in the Commons over the rise in UK unemployment.

The Labour leader said the government's plan for new jobs in the private sector to replace those lost as a result of public sector cuts was not working.

The PM said the figures were "disappointing", but insisted there was "not one ounce of complacency" among ministers about the issue.

Unemployment rose by 80,000 in the three months to July, to 2.51 million.

That is the largest increase in nearly two years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, with youth unemployment, in particular, rising sharply, by 78,000 to 973,000.

'No hiding'

Mr Miliband said the prime minister and his government had become "the byword for complacency in this country on unemployment".

He said women's unemployment was at its highest level since 1988, and that for every two jobs being cut in the public sector less than one was being created in the private sector.

This, he argued, was proof that the government must change course - and if Mr Cameron chose not to, proof that "for him, unemployment is a price worth paying".

The prime minister insisted the government was taking action, by creating 300,000 new apprenticeships and rolling out its Work Programme.

He said: "These unemployment figures are disappointing, I don't want to hide from that... but this government will do everything it can to help those people back into work."

Mr Cameron said that despite the bad news on jobs, the need to reduce the UK's budget deficit remained as great as ever.

"On a day when France and Germany are meeting to stop Greece going bankrupt, he [Mr Miliband] must be the only person in the world who thinks you spend more to get out of a debt crisis."

The PM also accused Mr Miliband of "inconsistency" after the Labour leader told the TUC congress on Tuesday that "you cannot spend your way to a new economy".

Mr Cameron said private sector employment had increased by 500,000 since the general election and there were 300,000 more people in work now than a year ago.

Conflicting data

But Labour later accused him of giving incorrect figures, insisting the actual numbers were much lower.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls told the BBC's World at One: "The issue is if you go back a year there was a central proposition made by George Osborne as chancellor which was that if you cut public sector employment, if you cut the deficit faster, that will boost confidence and lead to more private sector jobs.

"The problem is in the last quarter we've seen a fall in public employment of over a hundred thousand [and] a rise in private employment of just 40,000."

Responding to Labour's accusation, Downing Street said Mr Cameron was using ONS figures and following the standard practice of comparing the most recent statistics with those for the last complete quarter before the general election.

The ONS statistics showed that 22,557,000 people were employed in the private sector in the first quarter of 2010, compared with 23,132,000 in the second quarter of 2011 - a difference of 575,000, said the spokesman.

Overall employment rose from 28,862,000 to 29,169,000, an increase of 307,000, he added.

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