UK unemployment rises for the first time in almost two years

UK unemployment has increased for the first time in almost two years, new figures have revealed.

There were 1.47 million people out of work in the quarter to December 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This was an increase of 46,000, the biggest quarterly rise since early 2013.

But unemployment is 123,000 lower than a year ago, the ONS said.

Despite the increase - the first jump since the summer of 2016 - the number of people in work increased by 88,000 to 32.1 million.

Other figures revealed:

  • The number of non-UK nationals from outside the EU working in the UK fell by 68,000 to 1.17 million in the quarter to last December compared with the previous year.

  • The number of non-UK nationals from EU countries working increased by 101,000 to 2.35 million, the smallest rise since 2013.

  • The number of workers on zero-hours contracts in their main job fell by 4,000 to 901,000 compared with the previous year.

  • The claimant count, which includes people on Jobseeker's Allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit, fell by 7,200 last month to 823,000.

  • Average earnings increased by 2.5% in the year to December, unchanged from the previous month

Job vacancies were up by 24,000 to a record 823,000. Credit: PA

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work, fell by 109,000 to 8.7 million, giving a rate of 21%.

ONS statistician Matt Hughes said: "While this is the sharpest increase in the unemployment level ONS has seen in almost five years, the number of people in work has continued to rise and there are fewer economically inactive people.

"Earnings continue to grow more slowly than prices.

"Rising employment this past year was largely driven by UK nationals. In particular, fewer citizens from eastern European countries were in work than in the year before.

"It's important to remember these figures simply look at the number of people in work, and aren't a measure of migration."