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British Jobless Rate Slips in Feb.

March 20, 2002

LONDON (AP) _ The British unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point to 3.1 percent in February, the second lowest level since 1975, according to government figures published Wednesday.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits fell to 947,200 in February, 5,000 less than the previous month and 50,000 lower than February 2001, the Office for National Statistics said.

The figure defied analysts’ predictions that the number of people claiming unemployment was set to grow.

The number of unemployed as measured by International Labor Organization standards, which includes people not eligible for benefits, rose by 8,000 to 1,554,000 between November and January, the ONS said.

The number of working Britons also rose, however, with 28.2 million people employed in the three months to January, 23,000 higher than the previous quarter and the highest total since records began in 1979.

Work Minister Nick Brown said that overall there are now 127,000 more people in work than a year ago.

``The U.K. now has the lowest unemployment rate of all the major industrialized countries for the first time in half a century,″ he said.

``Our stability now is the direct result of difficult economic and labor market decisions we have made in the past.″

The Office for National Statistics said Britain lost another 158,000 manufacturing jobs in the three months to January, and the number of those employed in manufacturing is at a record low of 3.7 million.

Most jobs were lost in the electrical and optical equipment sectors, textiles, leather and clothing, and metal products.

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