Unemployment has fallen to its lowest total for over a year, although there has been an increase in the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance, figures showed today.

The jobless total dropped by 49,000 in the quarter to September to 2.51 million, the lowest figure since last summer.

But the so-called claimant count jumped by 10,100 last month to 1.58 million, the highest since July, and the biggest monthly rise since last September.

The number of people in work increased by 100,000 in the latest quarter to just under 30 million, a rise of over half a million over the past year.

Other figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that long-term unemployment - those out of work for over a year - increased by 12,000 in the quarter to September to 894,000, while 443,000 people have been jobless for over two years, up by 21,000.

Part-time employment increased by 49,000 to 8.1 million, close to a record high, while there were 51,000 more people in full-time jobs, at 21.4 million.

Unemployment among women fell by 10,000 to 1.09 million, and by 39,000 among men to 1.43 million.

Unemployment among 16 to 24-year-olds fell by 49,000, which accounts for the total fall in today's jobless figures.
More young people are classed as economically inactive, most of whom were in full-time education.

Average earnings increased by 1.8% in the year to August, up by 0.1% on the previous month, giving average weekly pay of £471, including bonuses.

Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: "It's good news to see yet another increase in the number of people in work and to see unemployment fall again. The fall in youth unemployment is particularly welcome, although we're not complacent about the scale of the challenge still facing us.

"We're working hard to help the long-term unemployed back into a job. That's why we've committed to supporting the hardest-to-help people over a two-year period through the Work Programme so that we can help them overcome their barriers to work and get them into sustainable jobs."

The Government highlighted figures showing that the number of people who are classed as inactive, those not looking for work, has fallen by 25,000 in the latest quarter, with the number of people inactive due to long-term sickness falling by 83,000.

The number of people on the main inactive benefits such as incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance or lone parent income support has fallen to three million - the lowest figure in nearly 20 years.

Mr Hoban added: "These figures suggest that our welfare reforms are working, with fewer people on long-term sickness benefits and more people either in or looking for work."

The number of UK nationals in work has risen by 455,000 over the last year, accounting for nearly 90% of the total rise in employment.

The employment rate of UK nationals is now 71.9%, compared with 68.6% for foreign nationals.

The number of vacancies open at any one time has also risen this quarter to 479,000 - up 16,000 compared to this time last year.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "With unemployment stuck at two and a half million, a lot of families face a miserable Christmas without any hope of getting a job. It is definitely hurting but it's not working.

"We have been seeing further job losses in both the public and private sectors over the past two months and it is hard to see where the new jobs are going to come from with confidence at rock bottom.

"The Chancellor needs to use next month's autumn statement to kick-start the economy."

Unemployment in the regions between July and September was:

North East 127,000 minus 7,000 9.8%

North West 293,000 minus 26,000 8.4%

Yorkshire/Humber 247,000 minus 20,000 9.1%

East Midlands 178,000 minus 15,000 7.7%

West Midlands 235,000 no change 8.6%

East of England 212,000 plus 8,000 6.8%

London 372,000 plus 6,000 8.7%

South East 289,000 plus 6,000 6.5%

South West 155,000 minus 2,000 5.8%

Wales 121,000 minus 5,000 8.2%

Scotland 218,000 plus 4,000 8.1%

Northern Ireland 67,000 plus 1,000 7.6%