Ruth Mitchell

Number of unemployed falls by 36,000

UK unemployment fell by 36,000 in the three months to the end of March to 2.46 million, the second quarterly drop in a row, official figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of unemployment in the UK was now 7.7%.

Unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds stood at 935,000, with the jobless rate for young people now at 20%.

Unemployment in the region rose by 4,000 people.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 12,400 in April to 1.47 million, the ONS said.

It added that the number of people in employment rose by 118,000 to 29.24 million, compared with a pre-recession peak of 29.56 million recorded in the three months to the end of May 2008.

Some observers said the rise in employment was a sign the economic recovery was strengthening.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling told the national press the figures represented a “step in the right direction”, but he warned that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance was likely to continue to rise.

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “We welcome any glimmer of good news but today’s figures are a sign we are not out the woods by a long stretch.

“The claimant count is up, vacancies are down and this is before the wave of public sector redundancies and school leavers come onto the books.

“Iain Duncan Smith himself has said youth unemployment is a scandal. The Prime Minister has said it’s a severe problem.

“Yet all the Government has proposed is a plan which costs less than the DWP spends on phones and stamps.

“Most right thinking people think the Government need to do more. Not least because failing to get Britain back to work fast enough is pushing up the welfare bill by 12.5 billion – that’s £500 per household.

“That is simply irresponsible economics.”

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