UK jobless rate fell in February
The UK government said that unemployment was moving in the "right direction" despite an increase in the number of people on Jobseeker's Allowance and a youth jobless total of almost a million.
Unemployment fell by 17,000 in the quarter to February, to 2.48 million, a rate of 7.8pc, down by 0.1pc on the quarter.
The so-called claimant count increased by 700 last month to 1.45 million, including 462,300 women, the highest figure since October 1996.
The number of jobless 16 to 24-year-olds increased by 12,000 over the quarter to 963,000, while the total for 16 and 17-year-olds increased by 14,000 to 218,000, the highest since records began in 1992.
The number of unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds fell by 2,000 on the quarter to reach 745,000.
Today's data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the number of unemployed men fell by 31,000 to 1.45 million and increased by 14,000 for women to just over a million.
Changes to benefit rules have seen women switching from income support to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) over the past two months.
The number of female claimants has now increased for nine months in a row and fallen for men for 14 consecutive months.
Employment has increased, showing a 143,000 rise to 29.23 million, although the figure is still 331,000 below the pre-recession peak reached in May 2008.
The latest increase was driven by full-time employment which rose by 140,000, the biggest rise in this group for four years.
The number of people classed as economically inactive fell by 71,000 to 9.3 million following a 48,000 reduction in those listed as having a long-term illness.
UK Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "These figures are another step in the right direction.
"It's good news to see a rise in the number of full-time jobs in the private sector and the fall in unemployment is welcome.
"It is also reassuring to see a fall in the number of young people not in full-time education who are unemployed.
"However, there are challenges ahead and our priority is to continue to support the economy, by reducing the deficit and putting in place measures to encourage growth in the private sector."
The government said tackling youth unemployment remained a priority, centred on growth in apprenticeships and work experience places.