Unemployment has fallen for the fourth month in a row and more jobs are being created, especially for people over the age of 65, new figures showed on Wednesday.
The jobless total fell by 65,000 to 2.58 million in the quarter to May, the lowest for almost a year, while the number of people in employment increased by 181,000 to just under 30 million, the highest for almost four years.
Despite the dip in unemployment the numbers claiming jobseeker's allowance jumped by 6,100 last month to 1.6 million, including an increase of 8,000 among women to 530,700, the highest figure for 17 years.
Despite the dip in overall unemployment the number of long-term unemployed people is up, as are those claiming JSA
The Office for National Statistics said the increase among women was likely to have been affected by a change in eligibility rules for lone parent income support from May.
The biggest falls in unemployment, and increase in work, was in London, suggesting that the Olympic Games is having an impact on the figures.
General Secretary of Unison Dave Prentis said the "Olympic effect" had distorted the figures.
“The Olympic effect may give the impression of a recovery, but it is a mirage. The number of long-term unemployed is still rising, and huge numbers of women and young people are still struggling to find work."
The TUC's Brendan Barber said the only people not "sharing in the good news" were the young. "Long-term youth joblessness is up by 18,000 on the quarter to reach 421,000."
"It is evident that restrained earnings growth as well as significant increases in part-time jobs and self-employment is helping to keep unemployment down," he said in a statement.
Long-term unemployment has also increased, with those out of work for more than two years up by 18,000 to 441,000, the worst figure since 1997.
The number jobless for more than a year rose by 3,000 to 885,000, while there were just over a million unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds, down 10,000 on the three months to February.
Most age groups showed increases in employment, with a rise of 52,000 in over-65s in work to reach 929,000, the highest since records began in 1992.
The unemployment rate is now 8.1%, down by 0.2 percentage points, although the jobless total is 132,000 higher than a year ago.
Other figures showed that those classed as economically inactive, including people looking after a relative, on early retirement or who have given up looking for work, fell by 61,000 to 9.2 million, mainly due to a cut of 82,000 among students.
The number of vacancies increased by 10,000 in the quarter to June to 471,000.
Average earnings increased by 1.5% in the year to May, up by 0.1 percentage points on the previous month, giving an average weekly wage of £468.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling visited a new delivery office opened in London by TNT on Wednesday, which said it planned to create 20,000 new jobs across the UK in the next five years.
Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey said the long term unemployment figures "show the fate" disabled Remploy workers could face once the factories are closed by the government.
“The number of long-term unemployed is a scandal. This situation is only going to be made worse by the 1,700 Remploy workers being made redundant by the end of the year in the first tranche of factory closures."
The National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses John Walker also called for long-term unemployment to be tackled, "especially among women and young people."
"Research shows that the longer someone is out of unemployment, the harder it is for them to get back into the jobs market. We know that small companies are more likely to employ people that have been out of work for a significant time. "
Unemployment in the regions between March to May was:
Region Total unemployed Change on quarter Unemployment rate
North East 140,000 minus 4,000 10.9%
North West 331,000 plus 6,000 9.5%
Yorkshire/Humber 262,000 plus 13,000 9.7%
East Midlands 193,000 plus 3,000 8.3%
West Midlands 223,000 minus 18,000 8.4%
East 209,000 plus 2,000 6.8%
London 413,000 minus 20,000 9.7%
South East 288,000 plus 2,000 6.4%
South West 164,000 minus 5,000 6.1%
Wales 132,000 minus 2,000 9.0%
Scotland 220,000 minus 14,000 8.2%
N Ireland 60,000 plus 5,000 7.1%