It’s over: Unemployment fall comes to decisive halt

The prolonged fall in unemployment which baffled economists and delighted ministers has finally come to an end, figures out today are suggesting.

The UK unemployment total rose by 15,000 in the first three months of 2013 to 2.52 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The number of those in work fell by 43,000 over the same period to 29.71 million. It leaves the unemployment rate at 7.8% of the active population, up from 7.7% in the final quarter of 2012.

Officials at the Department for Work and Pensions pointed out there were now over half a million job vacancies in the UK, higher than at any time since 2008.

"Whilst there has been a disappointing increase in the headline rate of unemployment, we shouldn't forget the progress we are making," employment minister Mark Hoban said.

"We are not complacent. To win the global race we need to do all that we can to help people achieve their aspiration to look after themselves and their families."

Labour called for a jobs bill to introduce the opposition's compulsory jobs guarantee, which would ensure anyone out of work for over two years is found work.

"We now have definitive proof the Government has simply failed to get Britain back to work," shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said.

"Today we've learned the number in work is down, unemployment is up, and more people are out of work for longer. Yet despite a jobs crisis, the government did literally nothing in the Queen's Speech to help."

The inactivity rate for those of working age was also up, by 0.1%, to 22.4%, while regular pay rose by just 0.8% over the last 12 months. This is the lowest growth rate since comparable records began in 2001.

"Long term unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, can create a 'lost generation' of people whose professional and personal development has been severely hampered by being out of work," James Reid of SuccessFactors commented.

"The overall impact of this skills gap is a society incapable of meeting the productivity demands of a globalised economy. The whole world will suffer if we do not find a solution for this significant challenge."