The number of women claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has reached a near 15-year high as experts expect levels to continue rising amid public sector cuts.
Official data confirmed that while the overall level of unemployment dropped by 17,000 to 2.48 million, the numbers claiming job-related benefits rose.
The so-called claimant count increased by 700 last month to 1.45 million, including 462,300 women, the highest figures since October 1996, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Analysts said women were suffering higher unemployment levels because of public sector cuts where they tend to represent a higher proportion of the work force.
Vicky Redwood, an economist at Capital Economics, said: “It reflects the job cuts in the public sector as women are vulnerable to these. And that is even before the public sector cuts have really got going.”
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “While today’s unemployment figures are a welcome relief after a slew of poor economic data, not everyone will be sharing in the jobs cheer. Female unemployment has been rising many months.
“What’s particularly worrying is that these figures come before public sector job losses really start to bite.
“With hundreds of thousands of jobs set to go in local government alone where three quarters of staff are female there are real fears that rising female joblessness could increase in pace.
“Female unemployment is really hurting household incomes, which already under strain due to tax credit cuts and the growing gap between wages and living costs.”
Changes to the benefits system also mean women switched from income support to Jobseeker’s Allowance over the past two months.
Unemployment is predicted to reach 2.75 million by the middle of next year, by some economists.
Howard Archer, an economist at Global Insight, said: “Major job losses will occur in the public sector as the government slashes spending, and we doubt that the private sector will be able to fully compensate for this.
“We suspect that firms will be very cautious in their employment plans, reflecting slower growth and concerns that the intensified fiscal squeeze will hold back economic activity for an extended period.”
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the figures were a ‘step in the right direction’.
“The fall in unemployment is welcome,” he said.