UK unemployment numbers have fallen by a modest 26,000 over the past three months, but the number of people out of work remains unchanged at 7.7%, this is according to the latest official figures.

The more timely claimant count measure showed a 24,500 increase between May and June – the largest rise for more than two years. The number of people claiming out-of-work benefits reached 1.52 million — though the numbers may have been boosted by the government’s efforts to shift single parents and sickness benefit claimants back into the workforce.

Chancellor George Osborne has been hoping for a strong boost to employment to help restore the feelgood factor to cash-strapped British households. But analysts have been predicting that unemployment will start to rise again later in the year, and the Treasury will be relieved that this is not yet happening.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said: “There continue to be some encouraging signs in the labour market figures, particularly with the continued rise in private sector employment.

“It’s really important that we continue to support the economy and encourage businesses to invest and create jobs. However, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that we face to help people into employment. We always said that the road to recovery would be choppy.”

The ONS said the number of people in work was up by 50,000 over the quarter — though it remains 293,000 below its pre-recession peak.

Commenting on the labour market statistics published today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, (BCC), said:

“These figures are positive overall, with a rise in employment and a fall in unemployment in the last three months. “The private sector is willing and able to create jobs, but we must not be complacent. It is likely we will see more public sector job cuts in the coming months, and we are expecting unemployment to increase by 150,000 to a peak of 2.6m over the next 12 to 15 months.

“Given this background, the government must empower the private sector to create jobs by reducing the burden of regulation, particularly on smaller firms. Although the new figures show a marginal increase in earnings growth, wage pressures remain muted and are still well below inflation.