By Daniel Hunter

There are more people working in the private sector than at any time since records began, after a 700,000 increase over the last year, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics.

The number of people working in the private sector has risen by more than one and a quarter million since early 2010, more than offsetting the 398,000 drop in public sector employment.

The figures show that the number of people in work rose by 131,000 over the past three months — all of which were full-time jobs.

Over the last quarter unemployment has risen by 7,000 but the position is better than it was a year ago. Unemployment is 136,000 lower than it was a year ago, and the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell again in February.

In addition, reforms to the welfare system have led to the number of people who are economically inactive (being neither in work nor looking for work) falling to its lowest rate in more than two decades. More people are moving into the labour market to find work. Worklessness as a whole fell by more than 100,000 over the quarter.

Since May 2010 the number of people claiming one of the main out of work benefits has fallen by more than a quarter of a million.

Today’s figures show the number of people out of work and looking for a job for more than a year fell by 16,000.

"It’s a credit to businesses that the private sector is employing one and a quarter million more people than when this Government took office, helping us compete in the global race," Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, said.

"Today’s figures show that against a difficult economic backdrop we’re helping people to move off benefits and into work.

"There are still tough challenges ahead which is why we’re working hard to give jobseekers all the help and support they need to realise their aspiration of finding a job."

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