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First fall in jobless total since 2007

THE number of people out of work in the UK has fallen for the first time in 18 months, official figures indicated yesterday.

There were 2.46m unemployed people in November, down from 2.49m the previous month.

This puts the unemployment rate at 7.8 per cent, down from 7.9 per cent, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Meanwhile, the claimant count fell for the second consecutive month; the figures show there were 1.61m people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in December, down 15,200 from the previous month.

This is the largest monthly fall since April 2007 – and far better than the 4,800 decline economists were expecting.

Despite the improved unemployment rate, the ONS figures also show a fall in employment levels.

The employment rate between September and November 2009 was 72.4 per cent – the lowest since the winter of 1996/97.

The number of people in employment fell by 14,000 on the quarter to reach 28.92m.

This paradox is partly explained by the rise in part-time workers; while full-time employment fell by 113,000 over the period, the number of people in part-time employment jumped by 99,000 to reach a record high of 7.71m.

The ONS says there are 1.03m employees and self-employed people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job.

This is the highest figure since records began in 1992.

Alan Tomlinson, partner at UK licensed insolvency practitioners Tomlinsons, says the fall in unemployment is “very encouraging”.

But he added: “We were approached by a significant number of businesses in the second half of 2009 and many of these are now terminal. Unemployment could therefore rise again in the months ahead.”

Bank of England governor Mervyn King has also warned that unemployment is likely to remain high.