New official employment figures provide some much-needed cheer for the UK economy, showing rising employment and a fall in the number of jobless.

The Office for National Statistics’ February Labour Force Survey shows that the working age employment rate stood at 74.6% in the fourth quarter of 2002 - 0.3% higher than in Q3 and 0.3% up on the same period last year. The active national workforce rose by 150,000 over the three months from October to December, the sharpest quarterly rise since early 1997 – and all were fulltime jobs.

As for unemployment, the official Q4 figure stood at 1.51 million, down 36,000 on the previous quarter. The jobless rate was 5.1%, a 0.1% decline both on Q3 and year-on-year.

Meanwhile, the number of benefit claimants stood at 928,500 in January, down 3,500 from December – the seventh consecutive monthly fall.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff