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British unemployment figure rises for 3rd month

British unemployment has risen for the third month in a row, official data showed on Wednesday, while total pay growth sank to its lowest level in four years.

The number of unemployed people climbed by 15,000 to reach 2.52 million in the three months to the end of March, compared with the three months to the end of December.

The office for national statistics (ONS) added in a statement that Britain's unemployment rate stood at 7.8 per cent in the same period.

That was up 0.1 percentage points from the three months to December, but down 0.1 percentage points compared with the three months to February. Expectations had been for a rate of 8 per cent, Dow Jones Newswires said.

Meanwhile, numbers claiming jobless benefits fell 7,300 in April to 1.52 million. Analysts had expected a lighter drop of 3,000.

The ONS added that earnings including bonuses rose by 0.4 per cent in the three months to March.

That was the lowest since the three months to May in 2009.

In comparison, Britain's annual inflation rate stood at 2.8 per cent in March — which means the increase in workers' wages failed to keep pace with rising price levels.

'Latest labour market data are mixed but there has clearly been some fraying of its strength in recent months in reaction to the economy's extended softness,' said IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer.

'Meanwhile, earnings growth remains extremely weak, which is hitting consumers' purchasing power appreciably, especially as consumer price inflation has moved back up.'
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