Record 32.3 million people in work

The number of self-employed workers fell by 33,000 to 4.75 million. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The number of people in work has reached a new record, while earnings have grown in line with inflation, new figures show.

Employment increased by 197,000 in the quarter to March to 32.3 million, the highest figure since records began in 1971, giving a record rate of 75.6%.

Unemployment fell by 46,000 to 1.42 million, giving a jobless rate of 4.2%, the lowest since 1975, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Average earnings increased by 2.6% in the year to March, down by 0.2% on the previous month, but 0.2% up on a year ago. The latest CPI inflation figure is 2.5%.

Senior ONS statistician Matt Hughes said: “With employment up again in the three months to March, the rate has hit a new record, with unemployment remaining at its lowest rate since 1975.

“The growth in employment is still being driven by UK nationals, with a slight drop over the past year in the number of foreign workers. It’s important to remember, though, that this isn’t a measure of migration.

“Growth in total pay remains in line with inflation, meaning real earnings are flat on the year.”

The number of people classed as economically inactive, including students, those on long-term sick leave, taken early retirement or who have given up looking for work, fell by 115,000 to 8.6 million in the latest quarter, giving a rate of 21%, a record low.

Other figures showed that the number of non-UK nationals from EU countries working in this country fell by 28,000 to 2.29 million over the past year, the first annual fall since 2010.

The figure for non-UK nationals from outside the UK increased by 20,000 to 1.25 million.

The number of people working in the UK from the eight East European countries that joined the EU in 2004 fell by 91,000 to 917,000, the biggest annual reduction since comparable records began in 1997.

The proportion of all people working in the UK accounted for by non-UK nationals has increased from 3.5% in 1997 to 11% now.

The claimant count, which includes people on Jobseeker’s Allowance and the unemployment element of Universal Credit, increased by 31,200 last month to 897,000, the highest for more than three years.

Job vacancies fell by 16,000 to 806,000.

The number of self-employed workers fell by 33,000 to 4.75 million.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: “Since 2010 we have seen 3.2 million more people move into work right across the UK. Youth unemployment has fallen by over 40% and the unemployment rate at its joint lowest since 1975.

“Today’s figures once again cement that turnaround, with an employment rate of 75.6%, and on average over 1,000 people each and every day, since 2010, getting a job.

“With wages growing faster than inflation and increases in the personal tax allowance, not only are more people bringing home a pay packet but they are keeping more of their hard-earned money for themselves and their families.”