The number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose by 23,500 from the previous month to 1.64 million, the highest since April 1997, the Office for National Statistics said.
The Bank of England said last week that employment is at risk of falling significantly further” if the economy’s recovery from the longest recession on record falters. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is counting on the pickup to gather momentum and help him to claw back voter support in time for an election due by June.
A wider survey-based measure of unemployment based on International Labour Organization counting methods fell by 3,000 in the three months through December to 2.46 million. The 7.8 percent U.K. jobless rate on that basis is below the 9.7 percent figure in the U.S., 10 percent in the euro region. The rate is 5.1 percent in Japan.
The Bank of England said last week more Britons may have kept their jobs during the slump because wage growth stayed low. Governor Mervyn King said it was far too soon” to say that no more purchases will be needed through the bank’s bond-buying program after policy makers paused the plan at 200 billion pounds ($315 billion) this month.
The statistics office said today its measure of average weekly pay including bonuses rose 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter, while excluding bonuses it increased by 1.2 percent.