The number of jobless young people in the UK has dipped to its lowest level for two and a half years, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the country's jobless rate for people aged between 16 and 24 dropped to 19.9% in the three months to December 2013 – the lowest level since the second financial quarter of 2011.

It means the number of young people out of work decreased by 48,000 to 917,000.

Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "With employment continuing to increase, it's clear that the government's long-term plan to build a stronger, more secure economy is helping businesses create jobs and get people into work."

The research body also found that the UK's total unemployment rate dramatically increased to 7.2%, but the number of jobless people in Britain fell by 125,000 between October and December 2013 to 2.34 million.

David Cameron also welcomed the figures in a tweet which said: "It's good to see another fall in unemployment. Our #LongTermEconomicPlan means more people with the security of a wage & a chance in life."

The ONS also said that the country's employment rate hit 72.1% – representing a 0.3% jump from July to September 2013 and a 0.6% increase on last year.

The figures revealed that there were 30.15 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 396,000 from a year earlier.

John Salt, website director for, said: "Although the short term outlook looks good in the jobs market and unemployment has been falling for some time, the recent cuts to the adult skills budget and a lack of investment in the public sector as a whole is threatening the future of the recovery."

Total pay rose by 1.1% compared with October to December 2012 and regular pay rose by 1.0% over the same period.

But the figures mean pay is still lagging well behind CPI inflation of 1.9%.