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Rise in unemployment levels to 2.52 million, ONS figures show

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The number of unemployed people rose by 7,000 in the three months to January 2013, with the total number of people in employment aged 16 and over standing at 29.73 million, according to the latest figures from the Official of National Statistics (ONS).

The figures showed an increase of 151,000 in the number of people employed in the private sector, with the public sector showing a fall in employment of 20,000.

While workers' average earnings rose 1.2% over the three months, compared to the same period in 2011-12, inflation running at 2.7% meant that they fell in real terms.

The number of young people aged 16-24 without a job rose to 993,000 over the three months, taking the youth unemployment rate to 21.2%.

David Morel, director of Tiger Recruitment, said: "This data isn't as robust as some had expected but the jobs market is still far stronger than a year ago. London, in particular, is motoring ahead.

"George Osborne will get a few more heckles during his Budget as a result of the 7,000 new unemployed but overall things are moving in the right direction.

"Speak to recruitment firms and they'll say it's been the busiest start to a year for at least three years.

"Crucially, there is much more candidate movement in the market. People are now far more comfortable about switching jobs and are no longer fixated by the myth of 'last in, first out'."