By Marcus Leach

Official figures have shown that UK unemployment rose by 70,000 to 2.56 million between December and February.

The Office for National Statistics's (ONS) data means that the unemployment rate for the quarter was 7.9%.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance last month fell by 7,000 to 1.53 million. Also, the ONS said average earnings rose by 0.8% in the year to February, the lowest growth rate since the end of 2009.

"The heavy snow placed a crippling freeze on growth for retailers and small businesses. The extended winter also put the brakes on building work in the UK," John Salt, director, said.

"These employment figures, alongside rising fuel costs, have seen both jobseekers and consumer confidence left out in the cold. Although spring has finally arrived, the Chancellor will be finding it hard to identify shoots of recovery."

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