I can announce today that the number of people claiming unemployment benefit has fallen below 1 million for the first time in over a quarter of a century.
The figures being released show that:
* Claimant unemployment fell to 996,200 in February, a fall of 10,600 on the previous month, and the lowest level since December 1975;
* Unemployment as measured by the ILO definition is also down by 81,000 - over the last three months;
* The number of those in work is up at to 28.1 million, higher than at any time in this country's history.
As you know, we're careful about setting too much store on one month's figures. But unemployment below one million for the first time in a generation is a significant milestone on the road to Britain as a land of opportunity.
And these good figures today are in line with clear trends in the economy - steady growth, unemployment down, employment up.
Full employment in the modern sense is within our grasp.
But in continuing to tackle unemployment, we need to focus not only on those currently in the labour market without a job, but also on the inactive in our society. Those people who have - until now - been considered by some as unable to work. Many lone parents, partners of the unemployed, many disabled people say that, if given the option, they would prefer to work. But there has been very little support for them.
That is why we are extending the sort of all-round support offered in other New Deals to these groups.
I'd like to pay tribute to those New Dealers here today and to all those who have been unemployed, and are getting themselves off welfare and into work, with the Government's help in programmes like the New Deal. The scale of their ambitions to get back into work reflects the ambitions for Britain which we have as a government.
And it's a big achievement too by employers, creating and filling jobs, working against the background of economic stability we've created.
I'd also like to pay tribute to David Blunkett and Tessa Jowell who have worked tirelessly to make the New Deal the success it is. And to Alistair Darling, whose reform of the benefits system has helped to ensure that a passive life on benefit is no longer the norm, but the exception.
As I have emphasised throughout our time in office, this is a government that stays relentlessly focussed on the fundamentals: economic stability so that living standards can rise and families and businesses can plan ahead; jobs so that people get the chance to make the most of their potential; and public services so that our schools and hospitals improve, and we get crime down.
Last week's Budget showed that on the question of economic stability, and the handling of the nation's finances, we have in Gordon Brown a brilliant Chancellor whose astute economic management is benefiting the hard-working families we represent.
The Budget reconfirmed too our commitment to public services with the extra money for schools, hospitals and the fight against drugs and crime. I am the first to say we have a long way to go to make our public services what they can and should be, but I believe the year on year investment now going in, allied to our long-term plans for reform will get us there, and build on the progress made so far.
So these are the fundamentals: the economy, jobs, public services. Everywhere I go in Britain now, I meet people on the New Deal. They may not all be in the jobs of their dreams - very few people are - but the message that comes through time and again is that we gave them a chance. And nobody ever says to me that they're on a skivvy scheme.
In the end, giving people a fair choice is what this government is about. We want to take down the barriers that hold people back, and there is no bigger barrier than unemployment.
But we do not rest on our laurels. One million people - even just under one million people - is still too many out of work.
That's why today we're setting out the next steps on jobs, with a package of proposals on employment aimed at helping disadvantaged people in disadvantaged communities open up the pathways to work.
David Blunkett will set out the details in a moment, but I want to stress here that the policies outlined in this document are innovative and pragmatic. We are willing to do whatever it takes to give people the skills, confidence and opportunities to move into work. For lone parents, that may mean keeping them in touch with the world of work through regular work-focused interviews; for the disabled it may mean offering opportunities for supported employment; and for those people living in areas with high unemployment or inactivity, it may require extra outreach through an Action Team for Jobs.
So our aim is clear: nothing less than to create in Britain the chance for everyone to work. For generations, people have dreamt about achieving full employment - the chance for everyone to have a stake in society through work - but for the first time it is within our grasp. It won't be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. It will require more tough choices. But what is entirely new is that this vision is finally coming into focus. It is now up to all of us to take that final step and make employment opportunities for all - the modern version of full employment - a reality.
What these figures represent is not simply the statistical evidence of the strengthening economy, but real people, real families, real rises in living standards. That, in the end, is what government is about.