The claimant count – the number of people collecting jobseekers allowance – dropped by 3,700 in October to 1.47m. Economists had expected a rise of 5,000 after two months of increases.
In a generally upbeat set of labour market statistics, overall unemployment, including those not eligible for benefit, also fell by 9,000 to 2.45m in the three months to September. It was the first time for three months that both unemployment and the claimant count had fallen together.
The unemployment rate was 7.7 per cent of the workforce, down from 8 per cent in the first quarter of the year. The rate compares with 9.6 per cent in the US and 10.1 per cent in the eurozone.
Employment rose by 167,000 to 29.19m, driven by a rise of 142,000 in part-time workers to 7.98m, the highest level since records began in 1992.
But the number of people working part-time because they could not find full-time work was also up by 67,000 to a record 1.15m. Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said the rising level of part-time work suggested that businesses were reluctant to take on full-time workers because of concerns over the long-term economic outlook.