Employment increases have led to significant falls in those claiming benefits

An employment surge has led to the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance falling to almost a two-year low.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that at the end of last year there were close to 30 million people in work - 154,000 more than during the three months up to September.

With more people finding work the so-called claimant count dropped for the third consecutive month in January, falling by 12,500 to 1.54 million. This is the lowest it has been since June 2011.

However, although unemployment fell by 14,000 overall to 2.5 million, the number of youngsters out of work increased by 11,000 to 974,000 - the biggest rise since the start of last year.

Results also showed that there has been an increase in the number of people that are moonlighting, with 1.1 million workers having more than one job, which is an increase of 41,000.

The number of workers holding down full-time roles grew by almost 200,000 to reach 21.6 million, while part-time numbers declined by 43,000 to just over eight million.

Self-employed figures also rose, climbing by 25,000 to 4.2 million.

The amount of people who are deemed to be economically inactive, such as those on long-term sick leave, people acting as carers, or those who have given up on finding work, dropped to nine million, which is the lowest figure since the autumn of 2006.

In terms of the pay packets received by those in work, the ONS figures showed that there has been a fall in the real value of pay, with average earnings growing by 1.4% in December, which is 0.1% less than the previous month.

Regular pay also saw its lowest increase since the end of 2009, with a rise of just 1.3%.

With inflation at 2.7% last year, it means the annual increases in take-home pay have remained below inflation ever since the middle of 2008.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith highlighted that there was a fall of 15,000 in the number of people that have spent more than 12 months out of work.

He said: "The fall in long-term unemployment is particularly welcome and shows that the training and support we are offering is helping people move off benefits and into work."

Copyright Press Association 2013