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More grim economic news today – unemployment in the UK has hit a 17-year high according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.

At the end of October, there were 2.64 million people eligible to work but without a job, an increase of 128,000 on the previous quarter and a level not reached since 1994. The rate of unemployment is 8.3% – the highest since 1996.

Women and young people have been hit hardest. There are now 1.03 million people aged 16-24 who are unemployed – an increase of 54,000 and the highest level since youth employment statistics were first recorded in 1992. The number of women out of work rose by 45,000 to 1.1 million – the highest level for 23 years.

Public sector cuts seem to be the overriding factor in the recent increase in unemployment, and fierce criticism has been levelled at the Government. Labour leader Ed Miliband has warned that current Government policy could result in a ‘lost generation’ for whom finding work becomes impossible, whilst union leaders argue that the latest unemployment figures expose the failure of the Government’s cost-cutting strategy.

So how much worse is the situation going to get?

Whilst unemployment is still increasing, the rate at which it is doing so is slowing down, according to some economists. Based on the data from November, there is a sense that things might not be as bad as initially feared, although we are probably still heading for another recession.

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