LONDON, Dec 12 (Reuters) - The number of Britons claiming unemployment benefits fell unexpectedly in November and the number of people in work hit a record high, data showed, raising hopes the labour market may support the economic recovery.
Britain exited recession in the third quarter but weak business surveys have raised fears of a relapse.
However, the number of people claiming jobless benefits fell by 3,000 last month and the increase in the previous month was revised down to 6,000 from 10,100, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. Analysts had forecast a rise of 7,000.
The number of people without a job on the wider ILO measure fell by 82,000 in the three months through October to 2.510 million - the lowest since March-May 2011. The jobless rate stayed at 7.8 percent in line with forecasts.
Recent business surveys have showed that firms in Britain's dominant service sector increased staffing levels last month but factories reduced headcount.
A separate survey published on Monday showed British firms hired permanent staff through recruitment agencies at the fastest rate since April 2011 last month.
The number of people in work rose to 29.601 million - the highest since records began in 1971.
The positive labour market news will come as a relief for the Bank of England policymakers, who decided against another cash boost for the economy last week.
Finance minister George Osborne, who has had been under pressure to ease his flagship austerity programme to reduce the budget deficit and instead stimulate growth, will be also buoyed by the data.
The ONS said the number of public-sector employees fell by 24,000 in the third quarter to 5.745 million - the lowest since the first quarter of 2002. The ONS also revised public-sector employment up by around 100,000 per quarter for recent quarters and by less for earlier years due to better data.
Britain will endure more austerity and miss a key debt-cutting goal as the economy looks set to grow far more slowly than previously thought, Osborne said last week when presenting a half-yearly budget statement to parliament.
The latest ONS data also showed that many Britons still faced a squeeze on their finances.
Average weekly earnings including bonuses grew by 1.8 percent in the three months through October. Analysts had forecast a rise of 1.9 percent. Excluding bonuses, pay increase by 1.7 percent.
Both figures were below inflation, which jumped to 2.7 percent in October.
(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova and Jonathan Cable)
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