Unemployment hits 1.86 million as experts warn of worse to come

Unemployment has risen to 1.86 million and earnings growth has ground to a standstill in the economic downturn, with experts warning there is worse to come.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the unemployment rate has risen by 137,000 to 6% in the three months to October – the highest level since May 1999.

Redundancy levels for the three months to October was 180,000, up 41,000 over the quarter and up 49,000 over the year. There were 562,000 job vacancies in the three months to November 2008, down 49,000 over the previous quarter and down 118,000 over the year. This is the lowest figure since comparable records began in 2001.

Earnings growth rate has also been hit, standing still at 3.6% in the three months to October 2008 excluding bonuses and 3.3%, including bonuses, the same figures as for September.

Dr John Philpott, chief economist at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) warns the worst is yet to come.

He said: “The latest unemployment figures are bleak and herald a return to the dark days of mass joblessness we hoped had gone forever. Sadly, it is now inevitable that things will become bleaker still. An annus horribillis awaits the UK job markets in 2009.

“Today’s bad news on jobs confirms that the UK labour market has crossed the border into recession. Although there is some comfort in the fact that still thousands of vacancies to be had, the number of jobseekers chasing each vacancy is growing by the day as unemployment heads towards at least 2.8 million in 2009.†

“The abrupt increase in the number of people who have been made redundant is the most striking aspect about today’s figures. The ominous news is that this is not an anomaly, with the worst job cuts expected to hit between Christmas and Easter.”