Unemployment reaches 6.1 per cent

By politics.co.uk staff

Unemployment has hit 6.1 per cent after rising by 131,000 between September and November, according to Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures released today.

The news follows further indicators of the depth of the UK’s economic despair, with the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) indicating mortgage lending went down 30 per cent in 2008.

Theresa May, shadow work and pensions secretary, lambasted the government accusing it of being out of touch and not knowing how to deal with the crisis.

She said: “Gordon Brown’s complete failure to prepare Britain for recession means that the UK now faces the highest rise in unemployment of any G7 country.

“Labour’s astonishing claim this morning that there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ shows how out of touch they are. This is a government that has clearly run out of ideas”

The ONS report showed job vacancies dwindling and an increase in people of working age without employment.

Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat employment spokesman, said: “Young people who are being hit hardest by job losses will be the lasting victims of this recession if the government does not act now.”

“There are plenty of measures the government can take now. Gordon Brown must scrap his VAT cut and reinvest the money in green projects that will create thousands of jobs and set Britain on the road out of recession.”

Unemployment continues to hit the elderly as well. Unemployment of up to six months increased by nearly a third for those aged 50-plus.

By contrast it rose only 4.8 per cent for those aged 25-49, 12.2 per cent for 18-24 year-olds, and went down by 0.9 per cent for 16-17 year-olds.

“The government must take action if it is to avoid thousands of willing older workers becoming job-cut casualties who are permanently dependant on state support,” said Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern.

There are signs that jobs are being translated into part time work, with a fall in full-time employment of 89,000 over the quarter compared to an increase of 63,000 in part-time employment.