POLITICS
14/10/2015 10:35 BST | Updated 14/10/2015 16:59 BST

Unemployment Rate Down But Out Of Work Claimant Count Slightly Up In Latest Jobs Figures

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Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

The unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level for seven years but the number of out-of-work benefit claimants are rising, figures released today have revealed.

The Office for National Statistics this morning announced the jobless rate is 5.4 per cent – down from six per cent a year earlier and it’s lowest level since March to May 2008.

Yet the claimant count – made up of the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance and the unemployment section of Universal Credit – increased last month by 4,600 to 796,200.

For June to August 2015, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds was 14.8 per cent - higher than the all-time low of 11.6 per cent for March to May 2001.

It was also revealed that wages between June and August increased by an average of 2.8 per cent compared to the same period last year – up to three per cent if bonuses are included.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “This is a fantastic set of figures, which show more people in work than ever before and a strong growth in wages. That is a credit to British business, and a credit to the hardworking people of this country.

“Alongside this, unemployment has fallen to the lowest level since 2008, and long-term unemployment has dropped by a staggering quarter over the last year.

“This positive picture is replicated up and down the country, demonstrating that this one nation government is delivering a society with opportunity and security for all at its heart.”

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TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the employment growth, and said: "While there are still years of lost ground to make up it’s good to see private sector wages rising. But public sector workers are increasingly falling behind. The challenge now is delivering a recovery that works for everyone across the country, regardless of which region or sector they work in.

“Despite today’s improvements, it is also clear that there is still spare capacity in the jobs market. With inflation at zero, and rising numbers of workers in temporary jobs looking for full-time work, there is no case for immediate rate rises.”

Of the 796,200 people claiming unemployment related benefits in September this year, 705,600 were on Jobseeker’s Allowance, while 90,600 people who were out of work and claiming Universal Credit.

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Owen Smith, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, also welcomed the fall in unemployment but sounded a cautious note.

He said: "Concerns over pay and tax credits are growing for millions of British workers.

“Figures released this week show that six million British workers are paid less than the Living Wage. While the Tories are actually making the situation worse for low and middle paid workers, as cuts to tax credits will take an average £1,300 out of the pockets of up to three million working families.

“People are working harder than ever, but will rightly feel that the Government is working against them.”