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Unemployment falls overall, but number of long-term jobseekers increases, reports ONS

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Unemployment in the UK for the three months to May 2012 stands at 2.8 million, down 65,000 from the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported.

The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 70.7%, up 0.3% on the quarter. There were 29.35 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 181,000 on the quarter.

Ian Brinkley, director at The Work Foundation, said: "These are welcome but baffling figures. The economy is in recession, public sector jobs are still being shed, and yet some private sector employers are clearly hiring in large numbers. There is nothing to suggest that further deregulation of the labour market is required.

"This is not a time to be complacent however. This progress could easily go into reverse. The government made a good start in announcing long-term plans to unlock £50 billion of investment in infrastructure. It needs to do more to bring forward investment in the short term to secure the recovery."

But, worryingly there has been an increase in those aged 16-64 who have been unemployed for 12 months or more (up by 4,000), and in those who have been unemployed for 24 months of more (up by 22,000).

Ann Pickering, HR director, Telefónica UK, said: "All businesses will welcome today's news that youth unemployment has fallen. However, while the total number of unemployed young people has fallen, when you take out those in full time education and look at those in long-term unemployment, it becomes clear that there continues to be a worrying upward trend in the number of unemployed young people.

There is simply not enough being done by businesses to find ways to support young people into work and we risk presiding over a lost generation. There is an untapped wealth of skill and knowledge sitting firmly within the youth community, including a generation of digital natives with talent that many businesses are crying out for. We need to engage - now.

"All businesses, big and small, have a role to play in supporting young people on their journey to work and we're calling for companies up and down the country to take steps towards supporting young people in their area. It's not just about the number of opportunities, it's about the quality of those opportunities - and any business can play a small but invaluable part in that."

The unemployment rate was 8.1% of the economically active population, down 0.2 on the quarter. There were 2.58 million unemployed people, down. The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 22.9%, down 0.2% on the quarter. There were 9.21 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, down 61,000 on the quarter.

Chris Ball, chief executive of TAEN - The Age and Employment Network, said: "Today's figures reveal a record number of over 65s are working - with an increase of 52,000 workers in the three months to May to a total of 929,000. These figures are encouraging and show that an increasing number of older people are able to continue to contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to the labour market. However, this increase came solely from men, with the number of women aged over 65 in work dropping by 2,000 to 357,000 in the same period.

"TAEN also welcomes the decrease in the number of people aged over 50 who are unemployed - particularly those who have been unemployed for more than a year whose numbers fell by 17,000 to 173,000. Once again, however, this decrease in unemployment comes solely from men and the long-term unemployment rate for women aged over 50 has risen by 3,000 to a total of 60,000 - the highest proportion among any age group.

"While the employment situation may seem rosier for older workers, particularly men, it shouldn't be forgotten that long-term unemployment still disproportionately affects this age group. This is reflected by the fact that more than a third of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants aged over 50 have been claiming for a year or more, again the highest proportion for any age group.

"Overall this might seem an encouraging set of figures for the older worker but there is a clear upwards trend in the numbers of women aged over 50 who are long-term unemployed - from 56,000 in December to 60,000 in May - which shows they are faring worse than men in the current climate. There is a need for serious examination to find out just what is happening and why so many women in this age group are apparently finding it hard to return to work once out of a job."

Total pay (including bonuses) rose by 1.5% on a year earlier, up 0.1% on the three months to April 2012. Regular pay (excluding bonuses) rose by 1.8% on a year earlier, unchanged on the three months to April 2012.