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UK: Number of benefit claimants in biggest fall since 1997
Office for National Statistics figures released yesterday show that in February 2010, there was a reduction of 32 300 in the number of people claiming unemployment benefits. This was despite forecasts of a rise of 8 000 in the total and came on top of a downwards revision of the January increase in the same statistic – that is to say, 5 300 instead of the figure of 23 500 previously posted.
Using the ILO measure of unemployment, the jobless total fell by 33 000 in the three months to January 2010, to reach 7.9%. Analysts believe that the rise in the total number of unemployed during the recession has been lessened by flexible working agreements which have meant many firms have been able to retain staff but on shorter hours.
Despite the fall in claimants, official figures also showed that the number of people in employment dropped by 54 000 to 28.86 million in the same three-month period, the lowest level since 1996. Of this total, 6.098 million were employed by the state at the end of 2009.