Unemployment fell marginally in the first three months of the year, figures out today have shown, in a boost to the coalition.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat activists will be able to use the 0.1% fall in the unemployment rate as proof that the government's approach is working during local election campaigning over the next few weeks.
The rate slipped to 8.3% of the economically active population in 2012's first quarter, while in the same period the employment rate for those aged from 16 to 74 increased to 70.4%, also up 0.1% on the quarter.
Youth unemployment fell by 9,000 but remains above 1 million.
There are now 2.65 million people out of work across Britain, down 35,000 in the last three months.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said there is "a long way to go" on jobs, but that the fall in unemployment is "encouraging".
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber pointed out that a record 1.4 million people were now stuck in involuntary part-time work, however.
"This long overdue fall in unemployment will bring relief to the 2.6 million people desperately looking for work," he said.
"We now need to turn today's good news into a sustained fall in unemployment, with decent pay rises and full-time work. The UK is still a million jobs short of its pre-recession health."
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne refused to let the slight improvement in the unemployment rate deter him from another scathing attack on the coalition's approach to the economy.
"By recklessly raising taxes and cutting spending too far and too fast, this government choked off the recovery, pushing up borrowing by £150 billion and leaving unemployment continuing to soar," he commented.
"The number of people signing on is going up, we still have more than a million young people out of work, more women unemployed than since 1987 and a benefits bill that is spiralling by the day."
Ministers defending the £15 billion they are spending on employment schemes for young people also face criticism for making them too complicated.
There are at least eight different national organisations which fund 33 employment schemes, according to the Local Government Association.
Entrepreneur Will Davies of the aspect.co.uk property website said: "No matter how many schemes the government support none of them will be absolutely perfect for every individual.
"We need to give long-term unemployed youngsters the chance to work and the chance to learn basic disciplines like time keeping and team work."
A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development out today has assessed the performance of the workforce across what it calls the 'jobs recession' which began in 2008.
It found that women are faring better than men. They have shed only 0.05% of their workforce compared to a 2.4% fall in the number of male workers over the same period.