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Employment increases by 60,000 but unemployment still at highest rate since 1995, finds ONS

The employment rate has risen 0.1% on the quarter and there are 29.13 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 60,000 on the previous quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But the unemployment rate was 8.4% of the economically active population, up 0.1 on the quarter. There were 2.67 million unemployed people, up 48,000 on the quarter - the highest rate since 1995.

John Salt, Director at totaljobs.com, said: "Britons are facing their worst employment prospects since the recession began. The UK's negative Q4 GDP data released last month confirmed the lacklustre growth in the UK economy and this, alongside a backdrop of diminishing demand has led to nervous employers adapting their 'wait and see' approach to the labour market to start cutting their workforces instead.

"All the more apparent is the widening gap between North and South, with depressed high streets and businesses across the North West and North East struggling to cope with the lack of demand and obstacles to securing finance hindering the North from investing in its workforces."

The ONS also found total pay (including bonuses) rose by 2.0% on a year earlier, unchanged on the three months to November 2011. Regular pay (excluding bonuses) rose by 2.0% on a year earlier, up 0.1 on the three months to November 2011.

Charles Levy, senior economist at The Work Foundation, added: “Today’s labour market statistics offer us further hope that the economy was stabilising at the end of 2011. Comparing the three months to December with the previous three months, employment increased by 60,000. This is in sharp contrast to the steep falls recorded in the autumn.

“However, the bad news is that the job market remains grim, with unemployment continuing to rise to record levels and a big shift towards part-time work. The number of full-time jobs actually fell by 10,000, and there are now 1.35 million part-time workers unable to find full-time work. It will take several months of sustained job creation before we can expect to see unemployment fall significantly.

“The Chancellor must use next month’s Budget to bolster business confidence and enable companies to begin hiring again. The deficit reduction strategy alone is not enough to achieve that, and it requires more than the piecemeal growth measures that have so far been put forward. The government urgently needs a coordinated plan for boosting investment, innovation and exports, and it must signal its intention to do this immediately.”