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Full jobless figures paint gloomy picture

by business editor Trevor Sturgess

Unemployment in Kent and Medway has risen by more than 800.

While recent figures have suggested signs of economic recovery, they as not yet been reflected in the jobs market which has seen a fall in vacancy levels, with Kent and City firms shedding staff in the downturn. Some businesses have folded.

In Medway, 50 more people joined the dole queue, pushing the total to 7,161, or 4.5 per cent of the workforce.

Across the rest of Kent, the number of people out of work and claiming benefit soared by 774 to 27,820 (3.3 per cent), giving a combined increase of 824. That is16,300 higher than a year ago (3,300 in Medway and 13,000 across the rest of the county).

Apart from Tonbridge and Malling, where the jobless total fell by 14, the pain was felt across the county, with all other 11 districts suffering a rise in claimant count.

The biggest increases came in East Kent with treble-digit rises in Thanet (up 166), Shepway (up 132) and Canterbury (up 103).

Nationally, figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of unemployed people in the three months to July rose by 210,000 to reach a 14-year high of 2.47m, an increase of 743,000 over the year and 7.9 per cent of the workforce.

The claimant count, which measures the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, reached 1.61 million in August 2009, up 24,400 over the previous month.

While the total number of claimants increased by 24,400 over the previous month, the number of claimants of up to six months duration fell by 16,300.

Unemployment among 18 - 24 year olds continues to rise. In the quarter to July, it went up by 36,000 to 731,000, This may in part be due to graduates leaving university and finding it hard to get a job.

The number of vacancies fell and growth in average earnings also fell. The employment rate for people of working age was 72.5 per cent for the three months to July 2009, its lowest point for 12 years.

There were 31 million workforce jobs in June 2009, down 163,000 on the quarter and down 664,000 over the year. Most sectors showed falls in jobs over the quarter with the largest falls occurring in finance and business services (down 67,000) and construction (down 61,000).

The number of so-called economically inactive people of working age rose by 97,000 over the quarter and by 125,000 over the year to reach 7.99 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971.

Claimant count on August 13: Kent and Medway combined, 34,981 (up 824); Medway, 7,161 (up 50); Rest of Kent, 27,820 (up 774); Ashford, 1,948 (up 83); Canterbury, 2,384 (up 103); Dartford, 2,064 (up 88); Dover, 2,180 (up 44); Gravesham, 2,602 (up 34); Maidstone, 2,465 (up 68); Sevenoaks, 1,458 (up four); Shepway, 2,422 (up 132); Swale, 3,082 (up 65); Thanet, 4,136 (up 166); Tonbridge and Malling, 1,656 (down 27); Tunbridge Wells, 1,423 (up 14).

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