"Fresh hopes that the worst is over for Britain's battered economy were raised yesterday after forecasters were confounded by the first fall in unemployment for 18 months.
"But the figures showed that the country still has a growing army of eight million "economically inactive" people, with the size of the labour market declining to 28.92 million. The rate of employment is now at its lowest level since the winter of 1996-97.
"Official figures showed that the headline jobless rate for the three months to November fell 7,000 to 2.46 million, the first fall since the quarter ending May 2008. The number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work fell from 943,000 to 927,000."