On this day: unemployment rises to three million

On this day

On this day

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On this day in 1982, unemployment rose to three million - for the first time since the 1930s.

The official jobless total of 3,070,621 meant that one in eight people was out of work.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was lambasted in the Commons as she insisted there were “encouraging signs” the economy was improving.

Afterwards, Labour leader Michael Foot, said: “When Mrs Thatcher came into office there were five people chasing each job and that was bad enough. Today there are 32 people chasing every vacancy and in some parts of the country, it’s double that.”

The unemployment rates vary across the UK, with only the South East having a figure of less than 10 per cent. Northern Ireland had the highest rate, close to 20 per cent, with around 15 or 16 per cent of people in Scotland and the North East and North West unable to find work.

Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit, a former Sussex resident, said: “We are gradually fighting back in competitive terms against our rivals. As we can expand the economy so there will be more jobs available in the future.”

The two main factors behind the rise in the jobless total were the economic recession and the closure of traditional manufacturing industries.

In 2015, official statistics showed that the UK unemployment rate had fallen to 1.71 million, the lowest for nearly 10 years.

However, the method of calculating unemployment has changed in the years since 1982, meaning that comparisons between then and now are difficult to draw.

Indeed, a 2012 study by Sheffield University pointed to a ‘real’ figure of 3.4 million unemployed, compared to just 1.5 million on the claimant count.

The difference was attributed to changes in the method of classifying unemployment - for example, an estimated 900,000 people on incapacity benefits were not included in the total.

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