British jobless claims surge in June

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The number of people claiming jobless benefits surged in June by the biggest amount for more than two years, official data showed on Wednesday, sparking concern over the weak labour market.

The so-called claimant count of people registered for unemployment benefit soared by 24,500 last month to reach 1.52 million, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. That marked the biggest increase since May 2009.

Economists had forecast a smaller increase of 15,000, according to a poll by Dow Jones Newswires.

The number of unemployed people meanwhile dropped by 26,000 in the three months to the end of May to reach 2.45 million.

And the ONS added that the unemployment rate stood at 7.7 percent in the three months to the end of May.

That was unchanged from the rate for the three months to April, but marked a drop from 7.8 percent in the three months to February.

"There appears to be little in these data that alter the broad picture of a weak labour market," noted Daiwa economist Hetal Mehta.

"Though unemployment fell a little, the rate remains unchanged. And the claimant count increase was the highest seen in two years."

She added: "With the macroeconomic picture deteriorating further in the past few weeks and the majority of the public sector job cuts still to come, we still think unemployment is likely to rise above 8 percent by the end of the year."

© 2011 AFP

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