Unemployment hits retail hardest

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The retail industry has seen the largest rise in people claiming the dole during the last year, a new TUC report has revealed.

Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) Claims by Occupation finds that between July 2008 and July 2009 the number of people claiming the dole increased by more than 700,000. Workers in every sector have been hit by the downturn, but sales and retail assistants have been affected the most in the last 12 months with a 76,230 increase in the number of shop workers showing up in the claimant count. Job losses at high street shops including Woolworths (27,000 jobs), Clinton Cards (2,100 jobs) and Land of Leather (1,000 jobs) have contributed to this situation.

The larger numbers of claimants from these groups can partly be explained by the larger number of jobs in these areas across the economy, but unskilled and low-paid occupations are also experiencing higher rates of unemployment than professional groups.

While the unemployment rate for workers in elementary occupations is 12.7%, and has risen 3.6 percentage points on the year, the rate for those in professional occupations is 2.3%, and has risen by 1.2 percentage points.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “These figures explode the myth that this is some kind of classless – or even middle-class – recession. It’s the low skilled and the low-paid who are bearing the brunt of this recession. And they are certainly not seeing any recovery. It’s clear many people are spending a long time on the dole, and £64.30 a week is not enough to get through the week. Increasing JSA by as little as £10 a week would make a real difference to millions of families.”

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