Jobless people claiming benefits rises to 1.64m

The number of people on the dole has jumped to its highest level since Labour came to power

The country breathed a sigh of relief last month when it was announced that Britain’s economy had finally clawed its way out of its deepest recession since the 1930s. But according to the latest employment figures, we still have a long way to go.

The number of people on the dole has jumped to its highest level since Labour gained power in 1997. The figure soared by 23,500 last month, reaching an all time high of 1.64million.

The number of people experiencing long-term unemployment – those out of work for over a year – has increased by 37,000 in the last quarter to 663,000, also the highest figure since Labour came to government.

Yvette Cooper, work and pensions secretary, said: ‘Unless ministers wake up and stop treating these people like a statistic we risk losing a generation to a culture of worklessness.’

Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May said: ‘What is very concerning about today’s figures is the rise in the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, and the steady growth in the number of people becoming long-term unemployed.’

Economists have described the figures as a ‘reality check’ that will dash the country’s hopes that unemployment had reached its peak.

Howard Archer, of IHS Global Insight, said: ‘The economy is just not strong enough at this stage to prevent further job losses and the fall in unemployment late last year had masked the fact that full-time employment was still falling appreciably.’

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