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Unemployment has fallen by 50,000+ in first quarter

The economy continued to create jobs in the three months to April, despite the double dip recession, official figures showed yesterday.

Unemployment fell by 51,000 to 2.61m in the three months to April according to the Office for National Statistics, taking the national jobless rate down to 8.2 per cent.

In previous months increases in employment have been mainly driven by to the creation of more part-time jobs. But this month, the rise was equally shared between the two sectors. The number of full-time workers increased by 82,000 and the number of part-time workers rose by 83,000. Ministers also took heart from the fact that while public sector employment dropped by 39,000 to 5.9m, employment in the private sector increased by 205,000 to 23.38m.

Overall, there are reported to be 29.28m people in work, an increase of 166,000 on the previous three months.

Analysts welcomed the figures. David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce said: "This is encouraging news at a crucial time for the UK economy. Overall these figures show a flexible and robust job market. This proves that the private sector is willing and able to create new jobs while public sector employment continues to shrink."

However, offsetting, this surprisingly positive picture, the ONS reported an 8,100 increase in the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in May. The numbers who have been out of work for more than a year also rose by 30,000 to 886,000.

There was some better news on youth unemployment with the number of jobless 16 to 24 year olds falling 29,000 to 1.01m over the quarter. But stripping out the numbers from that age group in full-time education, the ONS reported the numbers in jobs fell by 23,000.

Men benefitted more than women. The number of unemployed men fell by 49,000 over the three months and the number of women by just 1,000.