RTTNews - The number of people claiming jobless benefits in the U.K. rose 39,300 month-on-month to 1.54 million in May, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday. Meanwhile, economists had expected an increase of 60,000. However, the current total is the highest since July 1997. The claimant count rate rose to 4.8% from 4.7%.

The ILO unemployment rate was 7.2% for the three months to April 2009, up 0.7 over the previous quarter and up 1.9 over the year. The number of unemployed people increased by 232,000 over the quarter and by 605,000 over the year, to reach 2.26 million.

Average earnings including bonuses increased 0.8% in the three months to April 2009 compared with the previous year. Excluding bonuses, average earnings grew 2.7% over the same period. This is the lowest annual growth rate for earnings excluding bonuses since comparable records began in 2001, the ONS said.

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