UK unemployment hits 17-year high

UK unemployment has hit a fresh 17-year high after the public sector shed thousands more jobs and the private sector failed to pick up the slack.

The number of Britons out of work rose to its highest level in more than 17 years in October, and these jobless figures look set to rise further as firms facing the threat of a renewed recession cut back on staff.

While a surprise slowdown in the number of jobless benefit claims over the past two months provided a glimmer of hope, many policymakers see the country on the brink of a sharp downturn as the euro crisis rages on and government spending cuts bite.

• Youth unemployment stays above 1 million
• Public sector loses 67,000 jobs in three months
• Private sector adds 5,000 over same period
• But claimant count rise is less than feared

But economists said there were tentative signs the deterioration in the labour market was slowing, if not reversing. The more recent data on the number of people out of work and signing on for benefits rose less than feared last month. The claimant count went up by 3,000, well below the 14,900 forecast by economists.

For 2012, Britain's independent government forecasting unit, the Office for Budget Responsibility, predicts that unemployment will average 8.7 percent over the whole year.

Young people have been hardest hit by the economic slowdown. Youth unemployment rose to 1.027 million, its highest level since records began in 1992.

Wage growth remains muted. Average weekly earnings growth including bonuses slowed to 2.0 percent in the three months to October, down 2.3 percent in September, in line with forecasts.

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