By Marcus Leach

Official data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that UK unemployment rose by 15,000 in the three months from January to March.

The rise sees the total number of people unemployed reach 2.52 million, which equates to 7.8% of the economically active population.

Growth in average earnings is also slowing, the ONS figures suggest. Average earnings increased by 0.4% in the year to March, compared with a rate of 0.8% in the previous month.

"The latest rise in unemployment, the third in a row, is a set-back for the UK economy and is starting to look like a trend," Xenios Thrasyvoulou, CEO and founder of online freelancer marketplace PeoplePerHour, said.

"Next month's figure will be even more important. Will the rise in unemployment continue or will the economy take a turn for the better?

"Above all, this data is a reminder that the UK economy is still on very uncertain ground.

"In recent months, and especially following the UK's avoidance of a triple dip recession, there has been a growing feel good factor around the economy.

"However, we may have become somewhat complacent, especially in light of the weak GDP figures announced in the Eurozone on Wednesday.

"The Eurozone is our biggest export market and if that is suffering, the UK will suffer, too. The hope is that the official job figures do not accurately reflect the changing nature of the UK's workforce.

"More and more people these days are selling their skills and expertise as freelancers rather than working as full time employed.

"There is certainly growing demand among companies for flexible, skilled staff who can work remotely and keep overheads low.

"This fragmentation of the workplace has yet to be recorded in any meaningful fashion."

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