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Budget: Unemployment, benefits claimants down in past year

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UK unemployment has fallen by 191,000 in the past year, according to the latest ONS statistics.

In his Budget statement, chancellor George Osborne said the employment rate had risen to 72.3% for November 2013 to January 2014, up from 72% in August to October 2013 and 71.5% this time last year.

The unemployment rate is now 7.2%, down from 7.8% for the same period last year. Osborne highlighted the fact that for the first time in 35 years, this means UK unemployment rate is lower than the US.

"The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that 1.5 million jobs will be created in the next five years. This is following the figures today that show a decrease in claimaint cases in the last year," he said.

The figures represent a slight fall in employment growth. However, business experts say this is inevitable after a period of high growth. 

Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills, said: “With pay in the private sector rising by 1.6% and inflation now at 1.9%, the wage squeeze is continuing to ease in the private sector. It’s not surprising that jobs growth has slowed a little as firms make better use of staff they have retained and recruited in the aftermath of the crisis, meaning unemployment will come down more gradually.”

Pay from November 2013 to January 2014 increased by 1.3% compared to the previous quarter. If bonuses are included, this increase is 1.4%.