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Work rate hits record high but work age benefits claims are up

The number of people in work has risen again
The number of people in work has risen again
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The number of people in work has reached a record high, while earnings have grown slightly above inflation for the first time in almost a year, new figures showed.

But the Office of National Statistics showed that more people were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit and local figures backed that up.

In Preston, 2,005 people were claiming work-related benefits up 0.1 per cent on the previous month. In South Ribble there were 835 claimants, same as the previous month and in Chorley too a figure of 1,120 claimants showed no change.

In Wyre and Preston North, there were 455 claimants, no change on last month, in the Ribble Valley, 650, up 0.2 per cent, in Lancaster and Fleetwood, 1,285 up 0.3 per cent while Morecambe fared worst with 2,110, up 1 per cent.

In the North West as a whole, 147,000 were registered unemployed,up 3,000 on the previous quarter, a rate of 4.1 per cent.

Average earnings increased by 2.8 per cent in the year to February, CPI is at 2.7 per cent.

Job vacancies remained unchanged at 815,000, while the number of self-employed workers fell for the second successive quarter - down by 18,000 to 4.76m.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: "Another milestone for employment has been reached under this Government as employment reaches a record high, up 3.2 million since 2010 - the 16th time the employment record has been broken in the same period.

Day by day we are helping people turn their lives around by getting into employment. Jobs are key to transforming lives and work is the best route out of poverty."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Unions have negotiated pay rises for workers across the UK, from the counters at McDonald's to the factory floor at Ford.

"But wage growth is still weak. Workers are £14 a week worse off than they were in 2007 - with pay packets not expected to return to their pre-crisis level until 2025."

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "The continued rise in employment, coupled with a further drop in the unemployment rate, is further evidence that the UK jobs market remains in good shape, with firms continuing to recruit despite sluggish economic conditions.

"However, the rising number of hours worked indicates that the recent pick-up in UK productivity is likely to be short-lived.

"The end of a prolonged squeeze on real wage growth is an important moment, although maintaining positive real wage growth could prove challenging without sustained increases in productivity and relieving the high upfront costs which restrict pay increases.

"The return to positive real wage growth is unlikely to translate into materially stronger spending in the near term with consumers expected to remain under pressure from uncomfortably high debt levels, particularly if interest rates rise further."