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September 17, 2009

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Britain's unemployment soars

UNEMPLOYMENT in Britain hit a near 13-year high in July despite signs that the deepest recession since World War II is coming to an end, official figures showed yesterday.

The Office for National Statistics said the jobless rate rose 0.7 percentage points to 7.9 percent in the three months to July, with young people suffering particularly badly in the recession. The unemployment rate is now at its highest since November 1996.

The report said 210,000 people lost their jobs during the period, taking the total to 2.47 million. The number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work rose to 947,000, the highest since records began. Just under one in five of this age group is looking for work.

"More workers, particularly young workers, are paying a devastating price for the bankers' recession, and there is some way to go before unemployment stops rising," said Paul Kenny, general secretary of Britain's general trade union, the GMB.

Overall, unemployment has now risen by 743,000 over the year as a whole and looks on course to pass the 3 million mark next year as the impact of the recession feeds through.

With unemployment expanding, wage growth remains relatively subdued.

The statistics office said average earnings, including bonuses, increased by only 1.7 percent in the three months to July from the year before, down 0.8 percentage points on the previous three-month period.

Rate-setters at the Bank of England are thought to become concerned if earnings rise by 4.5 percent or more as bigger pay packets could stoke inflationary pressures in the economy.

In testimony to lawmakers on Tuesday, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said the medium-term risks to inflation remained on the downside as unemployment will continue to rise over the coming months even if the broader economy shows fledgling signs of recovery. Unemployment is widely considered to be a lagging indicator of economic developments.

"Even if the recession is technically over, it will continue to feel like one for many people for a long time yet," said Vicky Redwood, an economist at Capital Economics.


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