The fall in overall unemployment has been bolstered by a large increase of 80,000 in the number of people working part time in the the three months to February, the ONS figures showed. The number of people with full-time jobs actually fell by 27,000.
The number of unemployed women rose by 8,000 over the quarter to reach 1.14 million, the highest figure in 25 years.
Experts said that the increase in female unemployment is because of the large number of women who work in the public sector, which has suffered severe cutbacks in recent years.
The long-term unemployed – those out of work for over a year – jumped by 26,000 to 883,000, the highest number since 1996.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “Today’s figures are a step in the right direction but we still have a long way to go.
“We are pushing ahead with our strategy to promote investment and new jobs in the private sector and support people currently without work to take up those jobs.”
Graeme Cooke, a director at thinktank IPPR, said: “The priority for the Government must be to prevent long-term unemployment, with a job guarantee, and to support women to get back to work.”
Meanwhile David Kern, chief economist at the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), described the figures as “broadly positive.
Meanwhile, graduates from top universities would get financial incentives to opt for careers in engineering and manufacturing instead of the City, under plans being considered by Vince Cable.
The Business Secretary is studying proposals for “Manufacturing Technology Scholarships” to be offered to engineering students at Oxbridge and other leading universities.
The plans will be set out on Thursday by the Manufacturing Technology Association, at a Birmingham trade fair attended by Mr Cable.
Students on the scheme would be offered an annual ‘wage’ of £2,000 during university and a guaranteed paid placement year with the industry sponsor.
In exchange, they would commit to at least 3 years’ service in UK manufacturing after completion of their degree.