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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 September, 2003, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Unemployment at 28-year low
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The number of people out of work and claiming benefits in the UK is at a 28-year low.

The claimant count dropped by 6,900 to 930,800 - much better than the 2,000 decline forecast by economists and the lowest level since September 1975, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The government's preferred measure for unemployment, counting the number of people out of work over the past three months, fell by 1,000 to 1,493,000 people - resulting in a jobless rate of 5.1%.

At the same time, the overall size of the UK workforce continued its steady rise, adding another 63,000 in the quarter to a new record high of 27.93m.

Factory workers bear brunt

The main areas of jobs growth were in construction, financial and business services, and in public adminstration, education and health the ONS said.

The latter rise is likely to be a reflection of the government's sharp increase in spending on health and education provision.

However, hard-pressed manufacturers had continued to shed tens of thousands of jobs.

The ONS also said there had been a sharp rise in full-time employment both for men and women, while part-time employment had fallen in the past three months.

Other figures showed that bonus payments in the retail and financial services sectors pushed growth in average earnings up to 3.4% year-on-year in the three months to July - up from 3.1% the month before.

That is still well inside the Bank of England's "comfort zone" of 4.5% earnings growth, however, and should not spark fears of any inflationary pressure coming from the labour market.

The figures also showed people working longer hours, with the total number of hours worked per week at a record 901.6m, up 8.5m over the quarter.




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