Oct.17 - Official figures from the UK show the number of people in work reached the highest recorded level between June and August. Ciara Sutton reports.
More people in work than ever before - surprising unemployment figures have given a welcome boost to the flagging UK economy. Employment reached almost 30 million between June and August, with joblessness falling nearly 8 percent. It's the highest employment level since records began, even though the British economy is still struggling. Employment Minister Mark Hoban says the figures mark a turning point. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UK EMPLOYMENT MINISTER, MARK HOBAN, SAYING: "Clearly the private sector is recruiting, it's more than off-setting the contraction in the private sector, and I think what we are seeing is some of the benefits of the flexibility of the UK labour market flowing through into these figures." But not everyone's convinced. The opposition Labour party's Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, says the figures aren't that straightforward. (SOUNDBITE) SHADOW WORK AND PENSIONS SECRETARY, LIAM BYRNE MP, SAYING: "Nearly 60 percent of the jobs created since the election are part-time or self-employed. And we've seen the biggest number of people in temporary contracts for 10 years. So people in work are now trapped in an insecure situation and that's why they are feeling worried." And the UK is far from out of the woods. The IMF sharply downgraded its growth outlook recently, predicting the economy will shrink 0.4 percent this year, before growing by a tepid 1.1 percent in 2013. The government is under pressure to ease its austerity drive. It will unveil updated growth and budget forecasts in December and many economists believe it will struggle to meet its goals of eliminating the structural budget deficit within five years. Ciara Sutton, Reuters