The number of people out of work actually declined in the first few months of the year, according to figures released this week by the Office of National Statistics.
The number of unemployed people fell by 17,000 in the three months to February 2011. This takes the unemployment rate down from 7.9% to 7.8%: a total of 2.48 million. Across the economy as a whole, employment is up by 144,000.
However, there is still cause for concern amongst the good news. Women seem to be suffering more in the job market – the number of unemployed women rose by 14,000 to 1.03 million in the three months leading up to February. This is in contrast to unemployment rates amongst men, which fell by 31,000 in the same time period.
Chris Grayling, the employment minister, described the decrease in unemployment as a “step in the right direction” although he acknowledged that many people are still suffering in the job market.
He said: "There are challenges ahead and our priority is to continue to support the economy, by reducing the deficit and putting in place measures to encourage growth in the private sector.”