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Britain s jobless climb to 2.5 million

LONDON, Dec 15 – The number of unemployed people in Britain has hit 2.5 million, official data showed on Wednesday, with economists predicting more gloom as a result of the government’s planned spending cuts.

The jobless total rose by 35,000 in the three months to October to reach 2.5 million, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement. That was the first increase for six months.

The ONS added that the unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent in the three months to October, compared with 7.7 percent in the three months to September.

The so-called claimant count of people registered for unemployment benefits, however, fell 1,200 last month to 1.46 million.

"Overall, today’s figures are a reminder that there is still a long way to go in the labour market recovery despite the ground gained earlier this year," said economist Charles Davis at the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

He added: "Although private sector employment should grow to some extent in 2011, the public sector will have started to retrench. Hence, we expect the unemployment rate to rise above eight percent in 2011."

Britain is slashing public expenditure and increasing taxation as it seeks to tame an enormous public deficit.

The government’s independent watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has forecast that about 330,000 jobs will be shed in Britain’s public sector over the next four years as a result of the planned austerity measures.

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