Jobless total reaches four-year high

The number of people out of work in the UK has risen to a four-year high, the latest official figures reveal.

The unemployed total rose by 108,000 to 1.54 million between October and December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That pushed the jobless rate up to 5.1%, the highest rate for three years, up from 4.8% in the previous quarter.

The manufacturing sector was hard hit by job cuts, with employment in the sector falling to a record low of 3.09 million in the three months to December, down 106,000 compared with the same period in 2004.

However, the number jobless people claiming benefit fell by 2,000 in January to 904,200.

The ONS said annual average earnings growth in the three months to December rose to 3.6%, up from 3.4% in the previous quarter.

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