The Government has been hit with a mixed bag of unemployment data as the headline jobless rate fell but the number of dole claimants rose.
The jobless total dropped 51,000 to 2.61 million in the quarter to April, while the number of people claiming jobseeker's allowance in May rose by 8,100 to 1.6 million, ending two months of declines.
The number of people in work saw its biggest increase since the quarter to August 2010 as the employment rate increased by 166,000 to almost 29.28 million - nearly equally split between full and part-time workers.
Almost eight million people are now in a part-time job, while those working part-time because they cannot find full-time work increased by 25,000 to 1.4 million. Self-employment has reached a record figure of 4.17 million, up by 84,000 since the previous quarter.
Average earnings increased by 1.4% in the year to April, up by 0.5 percentage points on the previous month due to the timing of bonuses. Average weekly pay in private firms in April was £5 higher at £465 compared with a year ago.
But other figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of people unemployed for more than a year increased by 85,000 to 886,000. The number of people unemployed for more than two years rose by 29,000 to 434,000.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said: "Any fall in unemployment is very welcome but I remain cautious over the next few months, given the continuing economic challenges we face. There are more jobs available in the economy with vacancies at 465,000, up 7,000 on this time last year. The number of people employed in the private sector is up 205,000 on the quarter, more than offsetting a 39,000 fall in public sector employment.
"The total number of people working full-time has also increased by 82,000. These figures show that with the right support in place, it is possible for the private sector to create jobs while the public sector employment is falling."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Today's figures show some long overdue good news in the labour market. New full-time jobs have been created and employment is up while unemployment has fallen. However, there are still real concerns about this being a sustainable recovery.
"Long-term youth unemployment has risen yet again, the claimant count is still going up and while male unemployment fell by 52,000 in the quarter, the number of unemployed women only fell by 3,000. We now need to turn today's positive news into a steady fall in unemployment. The Government must invest in jobs to get the economy growing again."