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Unemployment figures at seven-year low

Credit: PA

Unemployment is at a seven-year low of 1.83 million, official figures showed today.

In the first quarter of this year it fell by 35,000, although this was the smallest for almost two years.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance last month also fell by 12,600 to 763,800, said the Office for National Statistics.

Average earnings increased by 1.9% in the year to March - 0.2% up on the previous month.

The UK now has an employment rate of 73.5%, which is one of the highest since records began in 1971.

David Cameron hails Britain's 'jobs miracle'

One of the key issues in today's campaigning was the economy as unemployment figures hit a seven year low.

David Cameron hailed it a "jobs miracle", claiming his government had created more vacancies in the last five years than the rest of the EU combined.

But Labour hit back saying most of those jobs were only part-time.

ITV News Editor James Mates is travelling with David Cameron and the Conservative campaign.

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Boom for small business 'helped unemployment fall'

Business is booming for small firms, industry leaders have said as they attribute another fall in unemployment to increased recruitment from growing companies.

Small businesses are hiring more, experts say Credit: PA

Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, John Allan, said the drop of 76,000 jobless was in line with his expectations.

The latest fall in unemployment comes as no surprise as our research shows more small businesses are hiring compared with a year ago.

– John Allan, Federation of Small Businesses

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)'s employment chief Neil Carberry welcomed news that average earnings were up on last year - but warned productivity needed to rise to have a real impact on salaries.

It's great to see 248,000 more people in work, the fastest rise in employment in just under a year - thanks to our flexible jobs market.

With real wage growth rising people have a little more money in their pockets. But we need to see a recovery in productivity before wages can rise faster.

– Neil Carberry, CBI

Lib Dems: Britain is 'job creation powerhouse of the West'

Britain is the "job creation powerhouse" of the West, the Liberal Democrats have said, as they welcomed figures showing a 76,000-strong drop in unemployment.

Danny Alexander said Britain was the 'job creation powerhouse' of the West Credit: PA

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, claimed his party had brought the "common sense, fairness and financial discipline" which helped the economy recover.

Britain is the job creation powerhouse of the western economies. With record numbers of people in work and the highest employment rate ever, people can see the difference Lib Dems have made in government.

The balance, common sense, fairness and financial discipline praised by the [International Monetary Fund] today are the things we have brought to government.

– Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrats

Cameron: Two million more in work than in 2010

Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed figures showing employment is at a record high.

David Cameron warned that the progress would Credit: PA

The Conservative leader warned that the progress would "all be put at risk" if Labour came to power after the election on May 7.

There are now two million more people in work than in 2010 - that's more families with the stability and security of a regular pay packet.

This is thanks to the hard work and the determination of the British people, and the Conservatives' strong leadership and clear economic plan.

It would all be put at risk with the chaos of a Miliband-SNP stitch-up, hiking borrowing, hurting the economy, and costing jobs - and it'll be hard-working taxpayers who'll pay.

– David Cameron, Conservative leader

Labour: 'Biggest fall in wages since 1874' under coalition

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, has criticised the government for overseeing the "biggest fall in wages since 1874".

Rachel Reeves said the Tories' plan was 'failing' Credit: PA

She claimed that despite the numbers in work hitting a record high of 31 million, and average earnings up on last year, people were still bringing in less than they were before the last general election.

Today's fall in overall unemployment is welcome, but with working people earning on average £1,600 less a year since 2010 and the biggest fall in wages over a parliament since 1874, it's clear the Tory plan is failing.

– Rachel Reeves, Labour

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Unemployment figures: Regional breakdown

The north-west of England celebrated the biggest fall in the number of people out of work in the three months to February, official figures reveal.

The region saw a fall of 20,000, bringing the unemployment rate down to 5.6 per cent.

The south-west fared worst of the English regions, with an increase in unemployment of 7,000.

  • North West: down 20,000 to 209,000 (5.9% unemployment rate)
  • Yorkshire/Humber: down 17,000 to 166,000 (6.2%)
  • South East: down 13,000 to 195,000 (4.2%)
  • East Midlands: down 13,000 to 116,000 (4.9%)
  • Wales: down 12,000 to 92,000 (6.2%)
  • North East: down 11,000 to 100,000 (7.7%)
  • London: down 10,000 to 287,000 (6.2%)
  • West Midlands: down 1,000 to 172,000 (6.2%)
  • East of England: up 1,000 to 154,000 (5%)
  • Northern Ireland: up 3,000 to 53,000 (6%)
  • South West: up 7,000 to 126,000 (4.6%)
  • Scotland: up 9,000 to 167,000 (6%)

While Wales celebrate a 12,000 drop in unemployment, Scotland saw a rise of 9,000 and Northern Ireland saw 3,000 more people out of work.

GMB union: Most people see 'little evidence' of recovery

Most people have seen "little to no evidence" of a rise in living standards, despite official figures showing average earnings are up, union chiefs have said.

As the Office for National Statistics reveals employment is at a record high of 31 million, Paul Kenny, general secretary oft he GMB union, said:

Most of these new jobs are mainly low-skilled, low-paid and zero hours. Even skilled workers in the UK face being undercut while wages are stagnant or falling in real terms.

Most workers have seen little or no evidence of any recovery in living standards due to the Tories not promoting real economic growth based on investment and productivity gains.

– Paul Kenny, GMB

Vince Cable welcomes record employment figures

Business Secretary Vince Cable has welcomed official figures which show a record 31 million people in the UK are now in work.

He praised the Liberal Democrats' time in power for having "promoted economic recovery" which has also seen youth unemployment fall and wages rise.

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