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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 08:44 GMT 09:44 UK
UK unemployment falls
UK unemployment graph
The number of people out of work and claiming unemployment benefit in the UK fell by 6,000 last month, according to official figures.

The number of claimants fell to 939,600, its lowest level since the mid-1970s, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported.

"The UK labour market remains strong with the number claiming unemployment benefit at the lowest for over 25 years," said the UK's minister for work, Nick Brown.

The claimant count is 45,000 lower than it was a year ago, with consistent falls during January, February and March.

"We are not immune to the world's economic difficulties, but over the last year employment has grown and unemployment has fallen," Mr Brown added.

Job creation

During the December to February period, the total number of people in work rose to its highest level since records begun in 1979.

The rise of 30,000 brought the number of people working to 28.4 million.

"These figures are good news for the economy but we remain very concerned that manufacturing jobs continue to haemorrhage," said general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union,

In the three months to February, 64,000 manufacturing jobs were lost.

Only 3.7 million people worked in the UK manufacturing sector by the end of February, fewer than at any time since records began in 1978.

Unemployment rate

The official unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.1% by the end of March.

But according to the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) definition, which also includes people who are not eligible for benefits, the UK's unemployment rate is 5.1%.

The UK enjoyed a fall of 14,000 in its jobless total to 1.52 million people during the first three months of the year, the ILO said.

"Recent ILO unemployment figures are the best since 1979," said the Department for Work and Pensions.

Low wage inflation

Earnings growth in the UK also slowed dramatically this winter to just 1.9% during the three months to February, the lowest rate since records begun.

"The average earnings figure is interesting, being the lowest ever... to an extent it's been distorted by bonuses in the financial sector which were much lower than last year, said BNP Paribas' Paul Mortimer-Lee.

During the three months to January, UK wage inflation was 2.9%.

"Our platform of low inflation, sound public finances and targeted employment policies is helping more people take up work," said Mr Brown.

"That means more people included in society, more people out of poverty, more people becoming independent."

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Business
German unemployment falls
05 Apr 02 | Business
US unemployment rises
05 Mar 02 | Business
EU unemployment stabilises
01 Mar 02 | Business
London heading for slow recovery
13 Feb 02 | Business
UK unemployment falls
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