UK unemployment falls by 45,000

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Media captionSteph McGovern talks to young people looking for work on the Isle of Wight

UK unemployment fell by 45,000 to 2.63 million in the first three months of the year, official figures have shown.

The jobless rate fell to 8.2%, the Office for National Statistics said .

Youth unemployment was down by 17,000 to 1.02 million. But the number of people unemployed for more than a year increased by 27,000 to 887,000, the worst total since 1996.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 13,700 to 1.59 million in April.

Part-time working hit another record. The ONS said the total number was 7.99 million between January and March, up 118,000 compared with the previous three month period between October and December.

Those working part-time because they couldn't find a full-time job was also the highest since records began in 1992 at 1.42 million, up 73,000 on the previous quarter.

Of the 45,000 drop in unemployment, 42,000 were men and just 3,000 were women.

"It's still women and young people who are bearing the brunt of the recession," said the Unison union general secretary Dave Prentis.

'International uncertainty'

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said overall the figures were a "welcome step in the right direction".

"For a number of months now, employment has been growing and this is starting to feed through into improving unemployment figures.

"However, we still face significant international uncertainty so we need to hold firm on our current economic strategy and continue to do everything we can to ensure unemployment continues to fall."

Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King also said that the latest figures were consistent with a gradual recovery in the UK economy, while pointing to the huge risk to the UK economy posed by the crisis in the eurozone, the UK's biggest trading partner.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said it was "really worrying to see the soaring long term costs as the number of long term unemployed surges towards the 1 million mark - the highest since the Tories were in Government last time".

"That's why it was so complacent for the government to give us a budget that failed to deliver on jobs. People in Britain are fighting through and this government is failing to lift a finger to help," he added.

'Salary sacrifices'

There was also further evidence in the ONS data of the squeeze on household incomes.

Average pay including bonuses rose by 0.6% from a year earlier, the lowest growth for three years.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Today's figures are mixed, with the welcome fall in unemployment driven entirely by part-time jobs.

"However the collapse in wages is terrible news for those in work and threatens our chances of an economic recovery.

"The falling number of full-time jobs and the 6% fall in real wages over the last two years means that people are having to make huge salary sacrifices and put their careers on hold just to stay in work," he said.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which monitors the labour market, said the fall in joblessness was "remarkable" as the UK economy had just fallen back into recession.

"However, while optimists might conclude that this casts doubt on the reliability of the most recent official GDP growth figures, a more sober assessment is that a very weak economy is managing to keep unemployment in check only by maintaining a severe squeeze on the size of pay packets and creating enough low productivity work to allow people to avoid the dole by doing the odd part-time job here and there," said John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the CIPD.

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