Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 14:45 UK

Growth in UK unemployment slows

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% of population claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, by parliamentary constituency. Source: ONS

The latest official UK unemployment figure has risen once again, but the rate of increase has slowed.

Unemployment increased 88,000 to 2.47 million in the three months to August, from the three months to May. The jobless rate rose to 7.9% from 7.6%.

The rise in the number of unemployed was the lowest since July 2008, said the Office for National Statistics.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit grew in September by 20,800 to 1.63 million.

While the number of people claiming the benefit is now the highest since 1997, the rise compared with the previous month was the least since May 2008.

'Fragile recovery'

Other key points from the latest official figures revealed that:

By Martin Shankleman, BBC employment correspondent

Within the blizzard of statistics a clearer picture is starting to emerge, that the outlook for UK unemployment - while bad - may not be as dire as feared.

Significantly the number of people who claimed Jobseeker's Allowance in September showed the smallest rise in 16 months.

The level of vacancies, an important measure of the labour market, seems to be stabilising.

The government is hoping that the raft of reforms in recent years has changed the dynamic of the labour market, making it much more responsive to any improvement in the economic outlook.

So whereas in the past, unemployment continued to soar, long after the recovery has started, perhaps this time, things could be different.

• The number of young unemployed people - those aged between 16 and 24 - continued to rise, to 946,000 in the three months to August

• Men remain the most affected by unemployment, with the number of males without work rising by 76,000 to 1.53 million in the three months to August

• The number of women unemployed totalled 935,000, up 12,000

• There has been a sharp increase in the number of women working part-time, up 79,000 for the three months ending in August 2009 to a total figure of 5,732,000. Nearly 10% of these women say they are working part-time because they can't find a full-time job

• Average earnings excluding bonuses rose by just 1.9% in the three months to August from a year earlier, the lowest figure on record.

'Fragile recovery'

"Although unemployment isn't as high today as many feared it would be at the time of the Budget, it remains a serious problem, which is why we must keep increasing support and advice to get people back into jobs," said Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper.

The Employment Minister Jim Knight

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union said the latest figures showed "some tentative signs of a very fragile recovery in the economy".

Investec chief economist Philip Shaw said the numbers were "more encouraging than we had hoped".

"It does suggest that the pace of deterioration in the jobs market is easing quite sharply which is encouraging for the outlook for a sustainable recovery," he said.

The latest unemployment data comes a week before the Office for National Statistics (ONS) releases its first estimate for how the UK economy performed between July and September.

Despite some signs of economic improvement, analysts remain unsure as to whether the economy will post growth and therefore exit recession.

If the economy contracts again, it will be the first time that the UK has endured six successive quarters without economic expansion.

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