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Unemployment drops down the order of concern

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The number of unemployed people in the UK fell slightly in the three months to January 2007, continuing the downward trend evident throughout 2006 and confirming the effectiveness of the Government’s UK investment in keeping the jobless total low.

The number of jobless fell by 3,000 to 1.69 million in the period, according to the Office of National Statistics. More recently, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in February fell by 3,800 to 922,200.

The latest figures mean that the unemployment rate stays at 5.5%, which is lower than in many European countries but higher than the rate currently seen in Japan and the US.

Economist Simon James said: “The figures show that the Government has unemployment pretty well under control and its UK investment in dealing with the problem has paid off to date.

“But there is no room for complacency and it is not heartening to note that the number of people working in manufacturing fell by 59,000 to 2.97 million, the lowest level on a comparable basis since 1978.”

Average earnings rose by 4.2% in the year to January, up from 4% in the previous month. However, analysts said that this figure was skewed by the generous bonuses earned in the City of London.

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