MINISTERS have hailed the latest fall in unemployment – although Hamp-shire’s dole queues increased again.

The number of people looking for work last month reached 19,713 in December – up from 19,581 the previous month, new figures show.

However, this was around 800 below December 2011’s total.

Hampshire was one of the few areas to register an increase in the claimant count.

Ministers welcomed the figures, which showed a record number of people in work across the country and a drop in total unemployment.

Across the wider south east region, unemployment increased by 10,000 in the three months to November.

Fareham MP Mark Hoban, the employment minister, said: “It’s good to see long-term unemployment falling and the number of young people claiming jobseeker’s allowance dropping again, while the increase in vacancies shows there are jobs out there.

“But we are not complacent, and will continue making sure we give jobseekers the support they need to achieve their goal of returning to work.”

Unions said progress was “painfully slow” for the nearly 2.5 million people looking for a job.

Southampton’s jobs market is still reeling from the closure of the Ford plant in October, as well as job losses at the council.

Leaders of Southampton and Portsmouth Councils have submitted a bid for a ‘city deal’ for the Solent area, which would devolve power over jobs and public spending into local hands.