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The rate at which levels of unemployment in the UK are catching up with those of other European countries is concerning, reveals one expert.

General secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Brendan Barber says rates may still be lower than the EU average but are worrying nevertheless.

"The UK government must introduce schemes such as short-term wage subsidies to prevent unnecessary redundancies and help employers to keep skilled staff on during the recession," Mr Barber adds.

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on the labour market published last month found that the working age employment rate was 73.8 per cent in the period between December 2008 and February 2009, down 0.4 percentage points from the previous quarter.

The number of people in employment decreased by 126,000 over the quarter, while the unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent, up 0.6 percentage points from the previous three months.

Furthermore, the ONS found that the earnings annual growth rate (including bonuses) was 0.1 per cent, down 1.6 percentage points from the previous period.

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