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UK Unemployment Rate Unexpectedly Rises In December

U.K. jobless rate unexpectedly rose in December, the first increase in nearly a year, data released by the Office for National Statistics showed on Wednesday.

The ILO unemployment rate climbed to 7.2 percent in the December quarter from 7.1 percent in the three months to November. The increase was the first since February last year, when the figure was 7.9 percent.

Economists had expected the rate to remain unchanged at 7.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

Last week, the Bank of England widened the scope of its forward guidance, saying it will monitor a broad range of indicators including unemployment, labor productivity and wages.

Earlier in August 2013, the bank pledged not to hike interest rate until the jobless rate hit 7 percent. Now, the BoE sees a rate hike only in 2015.

The number of unemployed totaled 2.34 million in the three months to December, down 125,000 from July to September. The figure was lower by 161,000 persons from a year earlier.

Unemployment among the 16-24 years old was 917,000, down 48,000 from July to September. The youth jobless rate was 19.9 percent, down 1.0 percentage points from July to September.

The number of employed totaled 30.15 million, up 193,000 from July to September. The figure was higher by 396,000 from a year ago.

The number of people claiming benefits eased by 27,600 in January to 1.22 million. The claimant count fell 27,700 in December.

Economists were looking for a decline of 20,000 for January. The figure fell 327,600 from a year ago.

In January, the claimant count rate dropped to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent in December. It matched economists' expectations. The rate was last lower in November 2008 at 3.3 percent, the ONS said.

Average weekly earnings including bonuses rose 1.1 percent in the three months to December versus 0.9 percent increase in the three months to November. Economists had forecast a 1 percent gain.

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