16/05/2012 12:59 BST | Updated 16/05/2012 13:03 BST

Unemployment Figures: Government 'Welcomes' 45,000 Drop In Jobless

The Government has welcomed a fall in unemployment and the number of jobseeker's allowance claimants but admitted there were too many people in part-time jobs who wanted full-time work.

Figures published on Wednesday revealed the jobless total fell by 45,000 to 2.6m in the quarter to March, the lowest since last summer, while the number on jobseeker's allowance last month was down by 13,700 to 1.59m.

The number of people in work increased by 105,000 to almost 30m, but this was entirely due to a rise in part-time workers.

Almost eight million people are now in a part-time job, the highest since records began in 1992, while those working part-time because they cannot find full-time work increased by 73,000 to a record high of 1.4m.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the unemployment figures were "welcome" news but that the Government was "not remotely complacent", telling the Commons at Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions: "It's welcome that we have had the largest rise in employment for over a year, the number of people in work since the last election is up by 370,000, private sector jobs are up by 600,000.

"We are not remotely complacent about this because although there is good news about youth unemployment and the claimant count coming down, there is still too many people in part-time work who want full-time work, and also we still have the challenge of tackling long-term unemployment."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said of the figures: "The Chancellor has created a part-time, low-pay Britain with his austerity programme - a political path that is increasingly being rejected by other European countries, France being the most prominent example."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber added that: "The collapse in wages is terrible news for those in work and threatens our chances of an economic recovery.

"The falling number of full-time jobs and the 6% fall in real wages over the last two years means that people are having to make huge salary sacrifices and put their careers on hold just to stay in work."

The Government pointed out that fewer than one in five of those in part-time work say it's because they can't get full-time work, while Timewise Jobs, an online jobsite specialising in part-time work, said the number of people who want part-time rather than full-time work was increasing.