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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 15:20 GMT
Jobless total at three-year high
Fewer jobs were available during the three months to November
The number of people out of work in the UK rose by 111,000 to a three-year high of 1.53 million in the three months to November, official figures have shown.

The rise was the biggest for 12 years and lifted the unemployment rate to 5%.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures also showed that the number of job vacancies fell 12,700 in the period to 606,500.

Meanwhile, the number of people out of work and claiming benefit rose by 7,200 to 909,100 last month.

The manufacturing sector continued to suffer, the ONS figures showed, with 109,000 jobs in the sector lost over the three-month period.

This set of data support our view that the next move in interest rates will eventually be down
John Butler, HSBC

The ONS figures also revealed that the number of people classed as "economically inactive" rose to its highest level since records began in 1971.

The figure - which includes students, people looking after relatives and those who have given up looking for a job - rose 25,000 during the three months to November to 7.94 million.

The ONS data also revealed that average earnings grew by 3.4% in the year to November, down from the 3.6% rate recorded the month before.

Rate cut soon?

Analysts said the news was likely to increase the likelihood of a rate cut in coming months as it followed a fall in inflation and signs of a slowdown in consumer spending.

"The UK labour market is showing the first genuine signs of weakening, as employment is now falling, unemployment is rising and wage growth slows," said John Butler, UK economist at HSBC.

"This set of data support our view that the next move in interest rates will eventually be down."

However, while analysts expect the Bank of England to cut rates, they are unsure as to the timing of such a move.

"There is some uncertainty over whether rates will be brought down as soon as next month, but we would not be at all surprised if it happens," said Investec chief economist Philip Shaw.

What the unemployment figures mean for the economy

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