Number of people claiming unemployment benefits hits 20-year low

The number of people in work has reached a record high and fewer are claiming unemployment related benefits than at any time in almost 20 years, official figures reveal.

The employment level rose by 90,000 in the three months to December to 28.52 million – the highest figure since records began in 1971, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Men and women claiming job seeker’s allowance fell by 11,000 last month to 813,200, the lowest since the summer of 1975.

But the total unemployment figure, which includes people not eligible for benefits, rose by 32,000 over the last quarter of 2004 to 1.41m, the biggest three-monthly increase for almost two years.

The apparent discrepancy of rising unemployment and record numbers in work was explained by an increase in the working population and a fall in those who are economically inactive,

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