Jobless claims fell even further in May

THE number of Britons claiming jobless benefits shrank again in May but the headline rate of unemployment climbed to almost 2.5m in April, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed yesterday.

The claimant count, which records those receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance, fell by 30,900 in May to 1.48m and the April figure was revised to show a sharper fall than previously published. The claimant count has fallen by 136,000 over the past four months.

The International Labour Organisation measure, showed the jobless rate rising to 7.9 per cent in April, equal to 2.47m unemployed. However, this was less than the eight per cent consensus expectations.

The number of long-term unemployed also rose in the three months to April with 772,000 people reporting that they have been out of work for more than 12 months, the highest figure in 13 years. Shockingly, the economic inactivity rate climbed to 21.5 per cent of the working age population in the quarter to April.

Analysts welcomed the improvement in the jobless figures and said they were consistent with the other signs that the economy has been improving for some time, given that the labour market usually lags actual GDP by a quarter or two.

However, they pointed to generous rises in public sector earnings – average weekly earnings for the public sector rose by 3.7 per cent in the three months to April on the same period a year earlier. This was not indicative of a public sector in the midst of severe austerity, said the Centre for Economic and Business Research.