Unemployment rate falls unexpectedly as number in work hits record high

Pay has risen at its fastest rate in nearly two decades outside of the Covid pandemic, raising expectations that interest rates could rise again next week. Joel Hills has the latest

Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen unexpectedly as the number of people in work hit a new record high and rose past its pre-pandemic level for the first time, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the UK jobless rate fell to 3.8% in the three months to April from 3.9% in the previous quarter.

Most economists were expecting the unemployment rate to edge up to 4%.

The ONS said the employment rate rose to 76% in the latest quarter, edging up from 75.9% in the previous three months, with the number of people in jobs at an all-time high of 33.1 million, up 250,000 quarter on quarter as more Britons returned to the jobs market.

But there were also some worrying signs for the employment sector, with vacancies falling for the 11th time in a row and another record high for those off work due to long-term sickness.

And average weekly regular wages hit a record outside the skewed pandemic years, but remained down with inflation taken into account.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “With another rise in employment, the number of people in work overall has gone past its pre-pandemic level for the first time, setting a new record high, as have total hours worked.

“The biggest driver in recent jobs growth, meanwhile, is health and social care, followed by hospitality.

“While there has been another drop in the number of people neither working nor looking for work, which is now falling right across the age range, those outside the jobs market due to long-term sickness continues to rise, to a new record.”

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