However, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), unemployment figures fell by 88,000 to reach 2.43 million, which is the largest quarterly drop since summer 2000, taking the employment rate down from 7.9 per cent to 7.7 per cent.
The rise in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits, for the third month in a row, was unexpected. Analysts have cautioned that some of the rise may be due to changes in benefit rules.
The statistics also revealed that more people are entering into part-time work due to failing to find full-time work. The ONS said the number of “under-employed” increased by 46,000 in the three months to April to reach 1.21 million, which is the highest figure since records began in 1992.
According to the ONS, the number of people who left unemployment was almost matched by the number who entered new jobs with the employment total reaching 29.24 million.
Chris Grayling, Employment Minister, said: "This is another encouraging set of figures and a very welcome drop in unemployment. It's also good news that employment is going in the right direction with half a million more people in private sector jobs compared to this time last year.”
Private sector employment rose by 520,000 during the course of 12 months to the first quarter of 2011. The public sector cut numbers by 143,000, leaving left total employment up by about 376,000.
Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "The labour market is currently showing resilience in the face of a struggling economy, but the key question is can it last? We have serious doubts about this and suspect that unemployment will head up in the second half of the year as public sector jobs are increasingly pared and private sector companies become more cautious in the face of persistently sluggish growth."
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