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Unemployment continues to soar

The number of unemployed people in Britain has hit 2.2m, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In the first three months of the year the British unemployment rate climbed to 7.1%, up 0.8 percentage points from the fourth quarter of last year and a rise of 1.8 percentage points on the same quarter in 2008.

Over the first quarter the number of people unemployed rose by 244,000; it increased by 592,000 over the year. According to the ONS, these are the largest quarterly rises in the unemployment level and rate since 1981.

Meanwhile, average earnings including bonuses fell by 0.4% in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same time period last year. The ONS says this negative annual growth rate is unprecedented since comparable records began in 1991, and is mainly because of lower bonuses in the financial sector.

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