20 June 2012
Last updated at 06:24 ET
Unemployment in the UK fell by 51,000 to 2.61 million in the three months to April, official figures have shown.
The jobless rate fell to 8.2%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
But the claimant count – the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – increased by 8,100 in May compared with April, to 1.60 million.
The ONS said the unemployment level in the UK overall was “showing some improvement”.
Most of the decrease in the headline unemployment figure was made up of men. Female unemployment fell by only 1,000.
Youth unemployment fell by 29,000 to just over one million.
The ONS added there were decreases in unemployment across all age groups, except for the over-65s.
Overall, there were 29.28 million people in work, up 166,000 on the previous quarter. That was the largest quarterly increase since August 2010.
The ONS also pointed out that whereas in previous months, the rise in employment had been led by part-time workers, this month the increase was fairly evenly spread between part-time and full-time workers.
“This time we’re seeing a very healthy increase in full-time jobs and that’s clearly very welcome,” Employment Minister Chris Grayling said.
But he added: “Any fall in unemployment is very welcome, but I remain cautious over the next few months, given the continuing economic challenges we face.”
Private sector employment rose by 205,000 to 23.38 million, but the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 39,000 to 5.9 million, the lowest figure since March 2003.
“That’s clearly the private sector growing faster than the public sector is changing its rate of employment, so that’s clearly what we always hoped would happen and that’s good news,” said Mr Grayling.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said that while the latest figures were “a ray of good news”, it was worrying that there were now “very clear signs of lasting and long-term damage by persistent high levels of long-term unemployment”.
“What we now see is about a third of people on the dole have been on the dole for over a year, we’ve still got youth unemployment over a million and the number on Jobseeker’s Allowance went up yet again.
“So when you take a step back and you look at those trends there are some real worrying signs about the long-term damage that is being done to the British economy from the government’s failure to get people back to work fast enough.”
Calls for investment
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber also said the latest figures showed “some long overdue good news” in the labour market, but added there were still “real concerns” about a sustainable recovery.
“We now need to turn today’s positive news into a steady fall in unemployment. The government must invest in jobs to get the economy growing again,” he said.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) cited continued difficulties in the eurozone as contributing to uncertainty ahead.
“Further net increases in unemployment are still likely over the next year, but the peak will probably be lower than the 2.9 million figure predicted in our latest forecast,” said David Kern, BCC chief economist.
“Businesses are keen to grow and invest, but the government needs to do more to help them create jobs.”
There have been calls for the Bank of England to increase its quantiative easing programme, which injects new money into the economy which the aim of encouraging banks to lend.
Four of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to increase QE from its current level of £325bn at its meeting earlier this month, newly-released minutes show. This was just short of the majority of five needed to change policy.
What is your reaction to this story? Have you recently been unemployed and now found a job? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below.