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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Unemployment at four-year record
Jobseeker at jobpoint
The unemployment rate rose to 5.1%
The number of people out of work in the UK has risen to a four-year high, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The number of unemployed people rose to 1.59 million between January and March, up 44,000 over the quarter and 177,000 over the 12-month period.

That pushed the jobless rate up to 5.2% - the highest rate for four years - up from 5.1% in the previous three months.

The number of people on unemployment benefit also rose by 7,700 to 945,500.

The April increase in the claimant count meant that this narrower measure of unemployment has now risen for 13 of the last 14 months, the longest period of increases since the UK emerged from recession in 1992.

Job cuts

Meanwhile, the ONS reported that the number of manufacturing jobs was at its lowest level since records began in 1978, with a decline of 117,000, or 3.7%, to 3.06 million.

The news comes as workers at Ellesmere Port face mass redundancies, and a few weeks after the closure of Peugeot's Coventry factory in April.

But there was better news on the overall employment rate, which rose to 74.7%, the highest since July-September 2005, with 28.9 million people in work

The two indexes can move in parallel if people who were not previously seeking work, such as women with small children, return to the labour force.

And pay pressures were still moderate, with average earnings including bonuses rising by 4.2% in the three months to March, up 0.1%.

The Bank of England closely watches this index, and has often argued that any increase in wages above 4.5% could be inflationary.

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