Mrs Shephard said: 'Claimant unemployment fell in March by 25,700. The rate also fell to 7.8 per cent. This month's figures, like last month's, were affected by industrial action in Jobcentres but, taken together, they are consistent with the Office for National Statistics' assessment that unemployment is on a downward trend averaging around 10,000 a month.
'New figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) also published today show unemployment down 94,000 between the Autumn and Winter Quarters when claimant unemployment also fell. Particularly welcome is the fall of 39,000 in unemployment amongst young people and 137,000 in long term unemployment over the last year.
'According to the LFS, employment rose 118,000 on the quarter. There are now 733,000 more people in jobs than three years ago.
'Eurostat, the European Commissions' statistical service, shows that unemployment in the European Union as a whole has risen to 11 per cent whereas the United Kingdom now has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, below Germany, France, Italy or Spain.
'I very much agree with the view of the Employment Policy Institute that jobs in Britain would be lost by the introduction of a national minimum wage. This would result in the closure of small firms and shops, higher prices and job losses. We must not put jobs in Britain at risk in this way.'