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More Britons join jobless list

MORE Britons joined the jobless rolls than at any time since 1971 as the recession destroyed work in factories, building sites and banks.

Claims for jobless benefits rose 138,400 in February to 1.39 million, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday. That's more than the population of Cambridge and compares with the increase of 84,800 forecast by a Bloomberg News survey of 20 economists. A broader unemployment measure climbed above 2 million in January for the first time since 1997.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who must hold an election by June next year, said the figures were a matter of "personal regret." They came as rescue packages fail to stem the economy's downward spiral and companies from Ford Motor Co to Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc eliminate workers. The financial crisis has wiped almost 2 trillion pounds (US$2.6 trillion) from household wealth and Britons will come under further pressure as job cuts mount. "These figures mean you lose about 140,000 voters, plus their family and friends," said Amit Kara, an economist at UBS AG in London. "The picture is very grim. We're looking at a peak of 3.5 million next year."

At 6.5 percent, the British jobless rate based on International Labor Organization standards compares with 8.1 percent in the United States and 8.2 percent in the euro region.

The Bank of England said yesterday that it would buy as much as 75 billion pounds in government bonds.


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