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    The rate of unemployment in the UK rose even further in the first quarter of 2009, new figures show.

    Figures released yesterday (May 12th) showed an increase of 244,000 in the first three months of the year, totalling 22.22 million.

    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) was due to release the figures this morning, but they were accidentally leaked several hours in advance.

    Colin Ellis, economist at Daiwa Securities SMBC, revealed: "The labour market definitely has further to weaken – and further job losses over the course of this year could well give another leg down to spending in the UK, damaging the prospects for a sustained recovery."

    The jobless rate increased from 6.7 per cent to 7.1 per cent, with unemployment benefit claimants also on the rise.

    Furthermore, average earnings were also down by 0.4 per cent, with this figure also including bonuses.

    According to a report from the Work Foundation released earlier this year, the largest increases in the total number of people claiming unemployment benefit have been in the largest northern cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Glasgow and Birmingham.

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