Wales politics

Wales unemployment rate drops to 7.2%

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Media captionThe Federation of Small Businesses said the figures made heartening reading

The Wales unemployment rate has dropped to 7.2%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

The number of people out of work fell by 12,000 to 108,000 in the three months to November, a fall of 0.9%.

Political leaders welcomed the figures showing the highest number of people in Wales in employment since 1992.

In the UK as a whole there has been a fall of 167,000 in the number of people unemployed bringing the total to 2.32 million, or 7.1%.

Wales now has the highest employment rate since the period March to May 1992.

That is partly due to a drop of 30,000 in the number of people economically inactive through unemployment, sickness or disability.

There are also more women working in Wales than ever before, 660,000, around 20,000 up on the last figures.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said the ONS figures made heartening reading.

Policy spokesperson Janet Jones said: "The figures chime well with our surveys of our members, with FSB members now having the confidence to increase their headcount for the first time since 2010.

"It is important now that Wales capitalises on this momentum so that we can rebuild our economy.

"There are very real measures that the Welsh government can undertake to ensure that happens, notably reforming our business rates system and improving access to finance for small firms by reforming Finance Wales."

'Optimism and confidence'

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the figures were positive for Wales with employment levels at a historic high and economic inactivity at a record low.

He said: "While the damage caused by the UK government's failure to respond to the economic downturn has not been fully repaired, today's employment figures, together with our positive economic output indicators, show that Wales can face 2014 with an increased spirit of optimism and confidence as our economy continues to recover more quickly than most other parts of the UK."

Welsh Secretary David Jones said the ONS figures showed a 21,000 increase in the number of people in employment in Wales over the last quarter when figures were already at a record high.

He said: "Our long-term plan is working, as there have never been more people in work in Wales, or indeed across the UK.

Interest rates

"Furthermore, we have seen sharp decreases in the numbers of those who are economically inactive.

"As a consequence of our taking difficult decisions, the UK is recovering strongly and more quickly, particularly in comparison with our European neighbours."

The Bank of England has said it will consider increasing interest rates from the current record low of 0.5% when the UK unemployment rate falls to 7%.

The drop in the number of people out of work was bigger than many analysts had predicted, raising the possibility that interest rates may rise sooner than expected.

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