Thursday, March 18, 2010

U.K. Jobless Claims Fall at Fastest Pace Since 1997

U.K. jobless claims unexpectedly fell in February at the fastest pace since 1997, suggesting the economic recovery is strengthening as Britons prepare for a general election within weeks. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits dropped 32,300 from January to 1.59 million, the Office for National Statistics said today in London.

The figures are a boost for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is seeking to persuade voters his Labour Party has the best strategy to cement the economic recovery. The Conservatives’ pledge to cut the record budget deficit faster than Brown is planning has cost the party support, raising the specter of a minority government after the election due by June.

“This is probably a good thing for Labour -- the ruling party can say unemployment is on its way down,” said David Tinsley, an economist at National Australia Bank in London and a former Bank of England official. “It’s a fine line they have to tread between talking up the recovery too much and not wanting to withdraw fiscal support too early.”

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