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Unemployment hits 2.56 million, with a rise of 70,000

There are 2.56 million unemployed people in the UK, with a rise of 70,000 recorded between December and February, the latest job figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed.

The unemployment rate for the quarter was 7.9%. The ONS figures showed average earnings in this quarter increased by 0.8% compared to a year ago (December 2011 to February 2012).

The number of people in work fell by 2,000 compared to the previous quarter, to just under 30 million, the first time the figure has dropped since autumn 2011.

Kevin Green, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said: "Although there has been an increase in a number of unemployed this month, all the indications and feedback we receive from recruiters show that businesses intend to hire more people this year. We expect to see slow growth in the jobs market over the coming months."

Green added: "A two speed labour market is developing with a dearth of candidates with in-demand skills at the same time as an unacceptably high number of long-term unemployed who don't have the skills and experience necessary to take advantage of the jobs that are available."


Xenios Thrasyvoulou, CEO and founder of online freelancer marketplace PeoplePerHour, said: "The sombre atmosphere in Westminster today [with Margaret Thatcher's funeral] may just spare the Chancellor the barbs he would usually have to endure following such a sharp a jump in unemployment.

"While the rise in the headline jobless rate is a cause for concern, the falling number of economically inactive people is much more encouraging."