Unemployment up to 2.56 million

The number of people out of work rose by 70,000 in the three months to February 2013, taking the total number of unemployed in the UK up to 2.56 million, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

The 0.2 per cent quarterly increase in unemployment means that 7.9 per cent of the 'economically active' population is now out of work. Despite the rise, the figure is 71,000 lower than compared with the same period a year earlier.

Employment minister Mark Hoban told the BBC that the UK still faced some 'tough challenges ahead.'

There was little change in the number of those in work, with 29.7 million aged 16 and over currently in employment - 71.4 per cent of those aged 16 to 64 were employed.

However the number of people in long-term unemployment (for more than a year) reached 900,000 - up by 8,000 on the previous quarter.

Mark Hoban highlighted that the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance between February and March fell by 7,000.

"We will continue to give jobseekers all the help and support they need to realise their aspirations," he said.

Average weekly pay, excluding bonuses, rose by just 1 per cent from December to February this year - the lowest growth in pay since records began in 2001. According to the ONS, the average weekly earnings for February 2013 are £443.