Unemployment figures continue to fall

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Total UK unemployment dropped to 2.16 million from February to April this year, according to figures released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

This equates to a rate of 6.6% of the economically active population (those seeking work) being unemployed, down from 7.2% in the previous quarter and 7.8% 12 months ago. 

The number of people in work rose to 30.54 million, an increase of 345,000 across the three-month period.

The figure represents 72.9% of 16- to 64-year-olds in the country, just 0.1 percentage point lower than the pre-downturn level of 2008. 

Despite the encouraging figures, employment continues to fall in the public sector. It decreased by 103,000 to 5.4 million in the first quarter of 2014, its lowest level since 1999. 

Some of the change can be explained by the re-classification of Lloyds Banking Group employees, who are now counted as private sector staff. This contributed to a boost in private sector employment, which increased by 447,000 to 25.13 million. 

Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG, said the employment figures must be seen as a sign that "the UK economy is moving in the right direction".

“However, while the job market is certainly fluid, there remain notes of caution," he said. "Employers still can’t find enough staff with the right qualities to fill their growing vacancy lists – and job seekers would do well to ensure they have the appropriate skills and qualifications if they want to be seriously considered for any roles."

John Salt, director of Totaljobs' website, added that the figures show employers are feeling "more confident than ever" about taking on new staff. He went on to call for the Government to clamp down on minimum wage and zero-hours contract abuses. 

"These undoubtedly cause uncertainty for hardworking British families," he added.