Unemployment fell by 65,000 and employment rose by 181,000 to 29.35m in the three months to May, according to the latest figures by the Office for National Statistics.

Although the figures show more job opportunities are available, with the number of vacancies at 471,000, up 10,000 on the quarter and 12,000 on a year earlier, the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) rose by 6,100.

Welcoming the figures, Minister for Employment, Chris Grayling, said:

“We still have a long way to go but this is a step in the right direction.”

Employment experts also gave the news a cautious welcome.

Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment and Skills, said:

The persistent rise in the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance remains troubling.

“The rising number of JSA claimants, and the fact that we have 441,000 people who’ve been unemployed for over two years, emphasises how important the Government’s Work Programme is.

“We need everyone to get behind the vital Work Programme initiative, to ensure it fulfils its potential for jobseekers, employers, and taxpayers.”

TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said:

“The only people not sharing in this good news are young people looking for work. Long-term youth joblessness is up by 18,000 on the quarter to reach 421,000.

“The Government must prioritise tackling long-term youth unemployment before any more careers are wrecked before they barely get off the ground.”

Gerwyn Davies, Labour Market Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said:

“The most positive aspect about today’s figures is that, while part-time employment continues to rise, the bulk of the growth in employment is full-time.

“The most worrying aspect of today’s figures is the rise in long-term unemployment. This puts the spotlight on the Government’s Work Programme, which is tasked with getting the most disadvantaged in the labour market into sustainable employment.”

The CBI has today published a report on the Work Programme, called Work in progress – fulfilling the potential of the Work Programme. This sets out targeted actions to ensure the programme fulfils its potential to support people back into work.