Economy: UK Jobless Rate Falls To 7.7%
The UK's unemployment rate has dipped to 7.7% for the first time since late 2012 amid improving signs for the labour market.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate fell in the three months to July from 7.8% as the number of people out of work fell by 24,000 to 2.487 million.
That was the lowest jobless rate since September-November period last year, the ONS said.
In another signal of continued recovery, the total claiming jobless benefit fell by 32,600 in August - the steepest decline since June 1997.
The monthly jobs data has taken on a new significance since the Bank of England pledged last month to keep the base rate of interest at its record low as long as the unemployment rate remained above 7%.
It does not expect to raise the rate until late 2016 though markets are pricing in the first increase in December 2014 as economic recovery gathers pace - bets that have led to rises in a range of market interest rates, including those that usually feed mortgages and other loans.
The ONS highlighted the continued squeeze on household incomes by measuring a 1.1% increase in average weekly earnings between May and July versus a year earlier.
That continues to lag inflation which is running at 2.8%.
The number of people working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job surged to 1.45 million - the highest since records began in 1992.
The ONS said that figure had doubled over the past five years.
Regional statistics highlighted a north-south divide in the jobs market, with areas such as the North East and North West continuing to see higher levels of unemployment - up 5,000 and 13,000 respectively compared with the previous quarter.
In contrast, there were declines of 29,000 in the South East and 7,000 in London.
Unemployment also fell in the East Midlands, the South West, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said: "This is a really encouraging set of figures, with the number of people in work rocketing by 80,000 in only three months - a rise driven entirely by a growth in full-time jobs.
"The private sector has created jobs for 1.4 million more people under this government, and there are now more people employed in the private sector than ever before.
"These are all positive signs that suggest the UK economy is turning the corner."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady responded: "These figures show how government cuts are continuing to hit vital frontline services with 21,000 jobs lost in the NHS over the last three months alone.
"Despite the Chancellor's boasts this week, austerity is continuing to cause damage and we are far from a strong and sustained jobs recovery."