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Unemployment reaches 17-year high

16th March 2011

UK unemployment has reached its highest level for 17 years, with more than 2.5 million people currently out of work, the latest official figures reveal.

Data published by the Office for National Statistics shows that the total number of unemployed people in the UK increased by 27,000 to reach 2.53 million in the three months to January 2011, which exceeded government estimates.

Public sector employment also fell by 45,000, though the number of people aged over 65 in work rose by 56,000 to stand at 900,000 - the highest level since records began in 1992.

Commenting on the data, employment minister Chris Grayling said it presents 'both good and bad news'.

'There's been a welcome drop in the number of people on benefits, but the rise in overall unemployment is a real concern and underlines the need to press ahead with policies which will further stimulate growth in the private sector,' he added.

Earlier this week, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, criticised government ministers for being 'out of touch' with the concerns of the UK's unemployed. 

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