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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
UK unemployment starts moving up
Jobseekers looking for vacancies
Unemployment had been falling for several months
The number of people out of work increased by 21,000 to 1.69 million between December and February, but the unemployment rate was steady at 5.5%.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) follow four consecutive months of falls.

The number of people claiming benefits fell by 9,200 to 910,800 - a bigger fall than had been expected.

Average earnings rose by 4.6%, as feared, although the ONS says the rise was driven by bonuses.

Risks to inflation

The Bank of England is worried about rising earnings, especially following Tuesday's unexpectedly high inflation figures.

But excluding bonuses, pay growth was unchanged at 3.6%.

Chiara Corsa from Unicredit MIB points out that bonuses are still a risk to inflation, because they tend to boost consumer spending.

"Wage growth ex-bonuses is stable but salaries including bonuses are rising and bonuses are likely to be spent on consumer goods," she said.

The number of people employed in manufacturing fell by 54,000 to 2.97 million, the lowest level since records began in 1978.

Manufacturers are being hit by the strength of sterling, which makes their products more expensive overseas.

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