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Cameron hails jobless six-year low

The Government has hailed another fall in unemployment and pay continuing to outstrip inflation, leading to a fresh clash between the main political parties over the economy.

The jobless total fell by 58,000 between September and November to a six-year low of 1.91 million, while a record 30 million people are in work, and t he number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell in December by 29,600 to 867,000, the 26th consecutive monthly cut.

Job vacancies have also reached a record - up by 19,000 to 700,000, said the Office for National Statistics.

Average earnings increased by 1.7% in the year to November, up by 0.3% on the previous month.

David Cameron said at Prime Minister's Questions that a record number of people were in work, wages were growing ahead of inflation and disposable income was higher than any year it was under the last Labour government.

Labour leader Ed Miliband claimed the Prime Minister believed everything was "hunky dory" because those at the top were doing well, highlighting soaring executive pay, while working families were £1,600 a year worse off because of tax rises and benefit cuts.

But Mr Cameron cited today's fall in unemployment, slowing inflation and the International Monetary Fund praise of the British economy to claim Mr Miliband and his party were unfit to win the election in May.

Unemployment has fallen by 418,000 over the past year, although the latest quarterly reduction was the smallest since July to September 2013.

The jobless rate is now 5.8% compared with 7.1% a year ago. Despite the good news on unemployment, there was another increase in the number of people classed as economically inactive, up by 66,000 to more than nine million.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "We have reached an important milestone in this country's jobs-led recovery - with unemployment falling below 6% for the first time in six years. Welfare reform has played an instrumental part in this."

The Government said four out of five jobs created in the past year were full-time, proving that its policies were successfully getting people back to work.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: "Today's fall in overall unemployment is welcome, but wages remain sluggish and working people are £1,600 a year worse off since 2010.

" Today's figures also show a worrying rise in youth unemployment. The Government should bring in a compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people into work."

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "These figures again confirm that the UK labour market remains a key strength for the UK, but there are some areas of concern."

The TUC's head of economics, Nicola Smith, said: "After years of falling living standards, today's real earnings growth suggests that we may finally be starting to make up some of the lost ground. But at this rate of progress it will still be at least another parliament before wages are even back to where they were before the crisis. Households are still far worse off today than they were five years ago."

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