The number of British women in employment has reached a record high but the increase isn't necessarily down to any improvements for female workers.

The UK employment rate for women has been steadily increasing for almost a decade, jumping from around 65% in 2010 to 71% in 2019, ONS figures show.

But what looks like progress is actually, according to the ONS, partly due to changes in the state pension age for women, resulting in fewer retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

Despite state pension changes driving up employment, the general picture for UK workers is good, with unemployment down by 65,000 to 1.3 million, continuing a general trend which started in early 2012.

The number of vacancies has fallen in recent months but employment jumped by 99,000 in the three months to March, to 32.7 million, the third highest total since records began in 1971.

UK unemployment is continuing to fall, a trend which began in 2012. Credit: PA Graphics

The UK’s unemployment rate of 3.8% is now lower than at any time since the end of 1974, reported the Office for National Statistics.

Average earnings increased by 3.2% in the year to February, compared with 3.5% on the previous month.

There was a 98,000 increase in the number of EU nationals working in the UK in the first quarter of the year to a record high of 2.38 million.

The graph shows the annual percentage change of inflation and pay. Credit: PA Graphics

Since the EU referendum in June 2016, the number of EU nationals working in this country has increased by 237,000.

Other figures showed that the number of economically inactive people in the UK fell by 23,000 in the latest quarter to 8.6 million, a rate of just under 21%, one of the lowest on record.

The number of vacancies fell by 16,000 to 846,000.

The UK’s employment rate of 76% is at a joint record high.

The number of people in work has increased by 354,000 over the past year, entirely due to full-time employment.

Part-time working fell by 18,000 to 8.5 million, while self-employment increased by 180,000 to just under five million.

Despite voting for Brexit the number of EU nationals working in the UK is rising. Credit: PA Graphics

Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: “Maintaining our record employment rate with unemployment falling again to just 3.8%, its lowest rate since 1974, once again shows the success of our balanced approach to managing the economy.

“Rising wages and booming higher-skilled employment means better prospects for thousands of families, and with youth unemployment halving since 2010, we are creating opportunities for all generations.

“We now need to shift some of our focus to up-skilling people and supporting them into roles with real career progression to create a modern workforce fit for the challenges of the 21st century.”