Unemployment falls to lowest in a decade, ONS says

Unemployment falls as earnings increase, the ONS says Credit: PA

Unemployment has fallen to its lowest in a decade as a record number of job vacancies are on offer, new figures show.

The jobless total was cut by 45,000 in the quarter to February to 1.56 million, a reduction of 141,000 since a year ago and the lowest since the end of 2006.

The number of people in work continued to increase - up by 39,000 on the latest quarter to 31.8 million, giving an employment rate of 74.6%, the joint highest since records began in 1971.

Vacancies were up by 16,000 to a record 767,000, with strong growth in accommodation and food services sectors.

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including those looking after a relative, on long-term sick leave, or who have given up looking for work, fell by 10,000 to 8.8 million, although the rate remained little changed at 21.6%.

Average earnings increased by 2.3% in the year to February, unchanged from the previous month, reported the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Senior ONS statistician David Freeman said: "A joint record employment rate and a new record high for the number of vacancies point to continued strength in the labour market.

"However, higher inflation, coupled with subdued earnings increases, means that the real growth rate in pay has tailed off to just above zero."

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said: "This is yet another strong set of figures, with unemployment at a rate that hasn't been beaten since the 1970s and more vacancies than ever before."

The number of self-employed workers has increased by 17,000 to 4.78 million, 15% of all people in work, and close to a record high.The ONS also reported a shift in part-time to full-time employment.