U.K. Jobless Rate Steady At 7.9 Percent

LONDON (AP) -- Unemployment in Britain was 7.9 percent in the three months to August, unchanged from the three-month rate reported in September, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday.

Compared with the three months to May, when the unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, 88,000 more people were out of work.

The agency said a total of 2.47 million people were unemployed in the June-August period, unchanged from the May-July quarter.

Although the pace of job losses slowed down in August, the unemployment rate is up sharply from a year earlier -- in the June-August quarter of 2008 it stood at 5.8 percent.

Yvette Cooper, the government's work and pensions secretary, said it was hard to forecast how unemployment would develop.

"It does look as if the economy is behaving in a different way compared to the early 1990s," she told a House of Commons committee.

"That may mean that there is a shorter gap between the economy starting to grow and unemployment starting to come down."

In a possible sign of stabilization in the economy, the report said the 434,000 job vacancies was unchanged from the March-May quarter.

"Bad as these figures are, there are some tentative signs of a very fragile recovery in the economy, which is due in no small part to the monetary policy being followed by the Bank of England and the fiscal policies of the Treasury," said Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union.

Kenny contrasted those policies with the opposition Conservative Party's policy of ending the Bank of England's program of "quantitative easing," or boosting the money supply.

Alan Tomlinson of the insolvency practitioners Tomlinsons said the worst was not over.

"Unemployment will continue to rise as long as businesses continue to struggle, and a significant number of businesses, small and medium enterprises in particular, are still fighting to survive," he said.

"Turnover is depressed, cash flow is uncertain and margins are squeezed and so in order to stay afloat companies are having to make economies, the first of which, unfortunately, is to reduce head count."

More in Labor