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U.K. Jobless Claims Probably Fell for Second Month in March

April 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. jobless claims probably fell for a second month in March as the economy’s recovery gathered pace before the general election due in two weeks.

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits dropped by 10,000 from February, when it declined by 32,300, according to the median forecast of 26 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The Office for National Statistics will release the figures at 9:30 a.m. today in London.

Evidence of an improving labor market would aid Prime Minister Gordon Brown as his ruling Labour party fights an opinion poll advance by the opposition Liberal Democrats. Data on jobs, the budget deficit and gross domestic product this week will provide the final glimpse before the May 6 election on the economy, which has taken center stage in the campaign.

“Given that it will get more publicity than normal they could really market this as a sign that Labour policies during the crisis have helped pull the economy through,” Nick Kounis, an economist at Fortis Bank Nederland NV in Amsterdam and a former U.K. Treasury official, said in a telephone interview. “What matters during elections is the pure marketing value. Either party will grab these figures and use them.”

All but four of the 26 economists surveyed predicted a decline in claimants, with the biggest drop of 45,000 forecast by HSBC Holdings Plc economist Karen Ward.

Hiring Plans

Tesco Plc, Britain’s biggest retailer, said yesterday it plans to hire 9,000 workers in the U.K., “including for the long-term unemployed through our regeneration partnerships.” Michael Page International Plc, the nation’s second-largest recruitment company, said on April 9 that it had a “stronger than expected performance in the U.K.” in its first quarter.

Brown is seeking to capitalize on the recovery after his term in office coincided with six quarters of recession. When Labour came to power under Tony Blair in 1997, the country had been out of recession for more than five years and unemployment was at 7.2 percent.

The unemployment rate, as measured by International Labour Organisation methods, probably stayed at 7.8 percent in the quarter through February, according to all 19 economists in a separate survey.

An ICM Ltd poll published on the Guardian newspaper’s Web site on April 19 showed support for the Conservatives down 4 points to 33 percent, and Labour down 3 points with 28 percent, while support for the Liberal Democrats surged 10 points to 30 percent.

Britain’s economy has returned to growth. GDP probably rose 0.4 percent in the first quarter, matching the pace of the final three months of 2009, according to the median forecast of 31 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The statistics office will release that data on April 23.

Business insolvencies are abating. Experian Plc, the world’s biggest credit-checking company, said today that 2,160 companies failed in March, compared with 2,512 in the same month last year. The insolvency rate fell to 0.11 percent of businesses from 0.13 percent in March 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Svenja O’Donnell in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Fraher at

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