British unemployment claims fall unexpectedly

Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:36am EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - The number of Britons claiming unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly in November and the number of people in work hit a record high, data showed, raising prospects the labor market will support a moribund economy.

The data will give some relief to the government and policymakers struggling with an economy that only exited recession in the third quarter. Weak business surveys have raised concerns of a relapse.

"The fact that UK employment is rising, consumer confidence is up, and anecdotal evidence of retail sales haven't been too bad, offers some hope that the domestic situation in the UK is stabilizing," said James Knightley at ING.

Sterling hit a five-week high versus the dollar after the data of above $1.6133. London's FTSE 100 index .FTSE remained 0.3 percent higher on the day but there was no reaction on gilt markets.

The number of people claiming jobless benefits fell by 3,000 last month and the increase in the previous month was revised down to 6,000 from 10,100, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. Analysts had forecast a rise of 7,000.

On the wider ILO measure, the number of people without a job fell by 82,000 in the three months through October to 2.510 million, the lowest since March-May 2011. The jobless rate stayed at 7.8 percent, in line with forecasts.

"This is a good set of figures. What we've seen is extraordinary resilience by the private sector," Employment Minister Mark Hoban told Sky TV after the release.

Recent business surveys have showed that firms in Britain's dominant service sector increased staffing levels last month but factories reduced headcount.

A separate survey published on Monday showed British firms hired permanent staff through recruitment agencies at the fastest rate since April 2011 last month.   Continued...

A man looks at adverts posted in the window of a recruitment agency in London March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor