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UK unemployment falls by 125,000
The Government has welcomed another fall in unemployment and a record number of women in work as evidence of foundations for healthy economic growth despite warnings that the pace of improvement could be slowing down.
Ministers said they were "rebuilding" Britain's economy after new figures showed falls in youth and long-term unemployment, a big rise in job vacancies, and the 15th consecutive fall in the numbers claiming jobseeker's allowance.
Communications giant EE added to the good news by announcing 1,000 new jobs, on top of 400 new positions planned by TNT Post.
The jobless total was 2.34 million in the final quarter of last year, down by 125,000, giving a rate of 7.2%, while t he number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance dipped to 1.22 million in January, down by 27,000.
More women are in work than at any time since records began in 1971, at just over 14 million, today's data from the Office for National Statistics showed.
But 1.4 million people are in part-time jobs because they cannot find full-time work, a fall of 29,000 over the latest quarter but 46,000 higher than a year ago.
Employment now stands at more than 30 million, a rate of 72.1%, which is 0.6% higher than a year ago.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "This recovery wouldn't be happening without the Liberal Democrats in government.
"Quarter by quarter, job by job, we are rebuilding Britain's economy. Every job created is a family helped and a boost to our economic growth.
"This, combined with the encouraging news on inflation earlier this week, is further convincing evidence that our long-term economic plan is working."
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "It's good to see another fall in unemployment. Our Long Term Economic Plan means more people with the security of a wage and a chance in life."
But Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "Sadly, today's fall in the total number of unemployed masks the scourge of under-employment, which is growing at an alarming rate across the country.
"Under-employment is now a bitter reality for millions of struggling families across the UK."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "These are encouraging figures for the millions of people desperate for work. It is good news that unemployment levels continue to fall, and that young people are finally beginning to share in the improving jobs market.
"But people already in work have less to cheer about, with prices still rising twice as fast as wages."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "Today there are fewer unemployed young people, more jobs outside of London, more women in work than ever before and more people in new full-time jobs.
"This shows that we have built the foundations for healthy UK growth and a stronger economy.
"This Government has worked hard to repair and rebalance the economy, helping to create nearly 1.7 million new private sector jobs since the election, strengthening Britain's economy and building a fairer society."
Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: "While today's fall in overall unemployment is welcome, the Government must not be complacent. More than 900,000 young people are still unemployed and over 250,000 young people have been unemployed for over a year.
"Today's figures also show working people facing a cost-of-living crisis are over £1,600 a year worse off since David Cameron became Prime Minister.
"The Government should introduce Labour's compulsory jobs guarantee to get people back to work now."
The party later confirmed that its flagship jobs guarantee was assured of funding only for the first year of the next parliament.
The scheme would offer anyone on jobseeker's allowance for more than two years - or one year for under-25s - the guarantee of a job paying at least the minimum wage for 25 hours a week and training of at least 10 hours a week.
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the latest unemployment figures showed that the UK had a strong and flexible labour market, adding: " However, there are signs that the pace of improvement in the jobs market is slowing down. Although youth unemployment has fallen, the jobless level among 16 to 24-years-olds still stands at 917,000, which is far too high.
"Many people are also still working part-time, as they are unable to gain full-time employment."