UK unemployment has risen at the fastest rate in almost five years, according to figures released this week.
The Office for National Statistics said that 1.47 million people were out of work in the three months to December – a rise of 46,000 to 4.4 percent from 4.3 percent.
Meanwhile the number of people in work continued to rise to 32.15 million, but the increase of 88,000 was smaller than expected.
The rise in both the number of employed and unemployed people is explained by the number of economically inactive people – those not seeking or available to work – falling over the period.
The figures also showed that average weekly earnings had risen by 2.5 percent – better than forecast, but still below the rate of inflation.
The total number of hours worked also fell – by 0.3 percent – while output per hour worked – a measure of labour productivity – dipped from 0.9 percent to 0.8 percent.
Commenting on the labour market statistics, Ian Larrard, director of the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative at Business West, said: “The latest labour market data paints a mixed picture, what with rises both in the number of people employed and unemployed in the last quarter.
“There was a welcome pick-up in pay growth, however, it continues to be outpaced by inflation.
“The continued rise in job vacancies is perhaps the most concerning, particularly for Swindon & Wiltshire.
“There is a chronic skills shortage faced by businesses across the UK, the lack of available workers with the right skills continues to be a drag on overall business activity and more must be done to address it nationally.”