The Government has been given some welcome good news on the jobs front when unemployment fell by 45,000 and the number of dole claimants dipped for the second month in a row.
The jobless total was 2.6 million in the quarter to March, the lowest since last summer, while the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance last month was down by 13,700 to 1.59 million.
The number of people in work increased by 105,000 to almost 30 million, but this was entirely due to a rise in part-time workers.
Almost eight million people are now in a part-time job, the highest since records began in 1992, while those working part-time because they cannot find full-time work increased by 73,000 to a record high of 1.4 million. Self-employment has also reached a record figure of 4.1 million, up by 89,000 since the previous quarter.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "These figures are a welcome step in the right direction. For a number of months now, employment has been growing and this is starting to feed through into improving unemployment figures. However, we still face significant international uncertainty so we need to hold firm on our current economic strategy and continue to do everything we can to ensure unemployment continues to fall."
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "That there are 2.63 million people without jobs shows the extent to which the Government's gamble with the economy has failed. So instead of borrowing to support the economy and to continue the recovery the Government has had to borrow to fund the recession. We have spent the last two years going backwards and this is why the electorate have voted down this failed policy."
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne, said: "Any increase in employment is welcome, but today's figures show that hard working Britain is doing anything and everything to battle through this double-dip recession made in Downing Street by David Cameron and George Osborne's failed economic policies."
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "We should be encouraged by these figures as they show the private sector is able to drive recovery while the public sector continues to shrink. But future challenges cannot be overlooked. Businesses are working hard to expand and grow, but the Government needs to do more to help them create jobs."
Graeme Leach, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, said: "These figures raise half a cheer for the economy. Both headline unemployment measures are down, which is obviously good news, but there's bad news in the average earnings figures. The real squeeze in household incomes continues to act as a dragging anchor on consumption and high street spending."
Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "It is still a very challenging economic situation. Clearly a fall in unemployment is something that we should welcome. We are putting in place a number of measures to support people who find themselves unemployed and doing everything we can to ensure unemployment continues to fall, but it is still a tough economic situation."